Saguin, Kristian Karlo Cordova (2013-10). Fish for the City: Urban Political Ecologies of Laguna Lake Aquaculture. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The dissertation tells the story of the production of socionatures through the development of aquaculture in Laguna Lake. The state introduced lake aquaculture to supplement fisherfolk livelihoods and improve fish production in part to provide nearby Metro Manila with its fish requirements. Half a century of aquaculture in the lake, however, has transformed ecologies, landscapes and livelihoods. Flows of fish to the city encounter socioecological contradictions in lake production and urban consumption. This dissertation examines these transformations and how state policies, livelihood activities and fish demands produce particular socionatures. Using the urban political ecology concept of urban metabolism, the dissertation frames the production of Laguna Lake socionatures as a city-lake dynamic. It employs qualitative and multi-sited ethnographic methods to follow Laguna Lake fish from sites of production to consumption and to identify actors, relations and practices that shape access to these flows of fish. The state embarked on projects aided by scientific institutions and foreign donors to enable aquaculture production through simplification of complex lake socioecological processes. These resulted in capitalist fishpen aquaculture expansion that transformed lake ecologies and village livelihoods. Capitalist aquaculture continues to confront nature's materiality in water-based production, which provides constraints and opportunities for aquaculture expansion. Village producers, intermediaries and urban consumers also continually work with the materiality of nature to secure livelihood and sustenance benefits from fish as they flow from the lake to the city. However, the distribution of access to fish flows is uneven, with urban-based fishing corporations that own the largest fishpens and fish market brokers deriving the most benefit as a result of their political and economic power. Other commodity chain actors attempt to gain access to these fish flows through formal and illicit strategies. By following the flows of Laguna Lake fish, the dissertation weaves stories of the urban metabolism as producers, traders, consumers, laborers and the state transform and produce lake and urban socionatures.

publication date

  • December 2013