The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

An Action Anthropology of Whaling Cultures

Joint Research Coordinator KISHIGAMI Nobuhiro

Reserch Theme List


Up until now, human beings have engaged in whaling to make use of whales as food and raw materials. Throughout the world various cultures exist where the core of the lifestyle is based on whaling and the consumption of whales as food. Despite the recognition of exceptions for some indigenous peoples to continue subsistence whaling and the catching of small whales as a result of resolutions of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), recently commercial harvesting of large whales has become a practical impossibility. Further, due to the activities of environmental NGOs, the movement to ban whaling has spread on a global scale. In such conditions, whale meat has ceased to be a source of food in many societies. Thus, the relationship between humans and whales has undergone a major historical change. This research proposes to study whaling for both large and small species of whales by indigenous peoples in the adjoining waters of Alaska and the Chukot Peninsula, the far northwest coast of Canada, Greenland and the Caribbean Sea, small-scale coastal whaling in Japan, former large-scale commercial whaling conducted by Western nations, and the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Research will include the views of Westerners about whales, and NGOs that oppose whaling, with the goals of trying to understand, from the perspectives of cultural anthropology and political ecology, the history and current conditions for whaling and the culture of whaling in different places throughout the world. Research will also examine the controversies surrounding international whaling. Through this research we propose to try to determine ways in which human beings and whales can coexist, that is, ways in which human beings can continue to use whale resources on a sustainable basis.