High School, Hemorrhage, and a (Mechanical) Heart: the case of Provincetown, Massachusetts

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Situated at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown, Massachusetts can feel like the end of the earth. It presents a case of transition and the struggle for communities on the margin to maintain a population of year-round residents. For most of the 20th century Provincetown sustained a vibrant community with commercial fishing as its primary sector alongside tourism’s infusion of seasonal visitors and revenue. However, the decline of fisheries, due to stock decline and increasing enclosure, coincided with a dramatic increase in property value largely because of second homebuyers. Presently, the reliance on tourism and the geographic position of Provincetown brings challenges for the local workforce, the provision of affordable housing, and the maintenance of local municipal services.

Although many locals do not dispute the present economic importance of tourism, many have come to highlight its lack of suitability as a complete substitute for the fishing industry. During interviews conducted in 2015, respondents spoke about drastic change witnessed over the past three decades both in the local fishing fleet and the wider community. Central were the converging themes of gentrification—or as some referred, “resortification”—the compounding effects of diminishing opportunities in fisheries and the community’s geographic remoteness from much of Cape Cod and larger metropolitan areas. The closure of the local high school, a bellwether of change, emblemized this local transformation. Additionally, corporeal imagery, (e.g. “hemorrhage” and “mechanical heart”) serve as metaphors for the importance of the fishing industry and the anxieties surrounding the community’s future provide discursive narratives ripe for analysis. The paper reflects the themes and inquiries of the proposed panel, as well as the wider conference theme, in its examination of the mobility of fishing access and residents out of a place, new capital into a place, and the material emblems of a community whose future is in question.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMARE Conference. People and the Sea IX : Dealing with Maritime Mobilities
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventMARE People and the Sea IX - University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 5 Jul 20177 Jul 2017
Conference number: IX


ConferenceMARE People and the Sea IX
LocationUniversity of Amsterdam


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