Master of Arts (MA)
Geography and Anthropology
Annual Blessing of the Fleet festivals are held throughout communities all along the Gulf Coast; each year boats parade down local waters to receive the blessing of the priest before the opening of the shrimp season. The shrimping industry has a long history in the area and has become intrinsically tied to local individual and community identities. This thesis investigates three festivals held in Chauvin and Morgan City, Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi to understand how the festival is used by participants as a way of negotiating their shrimping identities in a changing socio-economic environment. The tourism and the oil industries have been encroaching on seafood communities and many individuals have switched into these often more lucrative occupations. As a result, the Blessing of the Fleet has become a tool for constructing, supporting, and representing a shrimping identity. By incorporating tourism and oil into the make-up of the festival the event becomes a reflection of the current socio-economic landscape. Simultaneously, by emphasizing a shrimping heritage in festival displays, participants are actively reinforcing their identities to themselves and the wider festival audience. The Blessing of the Fleet originated as a means of managing the dangers of the shrimping industry, now, as the danger shifts towards a loss of shrimping, the festival has become a means through which individuals are able to negotiate and maintain their shrimping identities.
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Hubbard, Audriana, "The Blessing of the Fleet : heritage and identity in three Gulf Coast communities" (2013). LSU Master's Theses. 2695.