Beyond the Nature-Culture Frontier

Sea Urchin Festivals in French and Brazilian Communities


  • Juana Santos SANTOS
  • María Elena Martínez-Torres
  • Maristela Oliveira de Andrade



sea urchin festivals, culture and nature relationship, sociability and commensality, Suape Bay, Brazil, Carry-le-Rouet, France


In order to challenge the culture–nature dichotomy, this article investigates two festivities centered around fishing and consuming the sea urchin in two different locations: the Suape Bay Ouriçada (Brazil) in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Carry-le-Rouet Oursinade (France) in the Northern Hemisphere. This study employs both bibliographic and ethnographic research carried out at the two festivals over the last six years. The communities that originated these sea urchin festivals are both historically connected to artisanal fishing traditions that aim at creating bonds of sociability and connection with nature. While these festivities feature a wide variety of “things,” the one that stands out is the sea urchin itself. During these festivals, this species is taken by human hands from their habitat on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea to become the main reason for celebration and sociability in two different communities. On the one hand, sea urchin festivals can be seen as the heritage of local immaterial culture and as a symbol of the struggle for environmental protection. On the other hand, they are both the victim and the perpetrator of environmental degradations that threaten the event’s survival. Although the communities in these two geographic locations devised very different celebratory rituals around the same marine creature, by comparing and contrasting the two festivities we can contend that, despite their specificities, these sea urchin festivals challenge the culture–nature dichotomy. In other words, it is precisely through food that the natural and cultural worlds can become one.

Author Biographies

Juana Santos, SANTOS

Juana de Oliveira Santos obtained her undergraduate degree in social work from the Federal University of Pernambuco in 2005, a master’s degree from the Regional Graduate Program in Development and Environment (PRODEMA) at the Federal University of Paraíba in 2013, and a master’s degree in anthropology from the Institute of Latin American Studies (IHEAL) at the University of Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle in 2014. Her master’s thesis is entitled “Tatuoca Island Sustainability: Between the South Atlantic Shipyard and the Festival of Ouriçada in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Pernambuco, Brasil.” She is currently in the Double Degree Doctorate Program between IHEAL and PRODEMA, supported by a scholarship from the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), with the research project “The Festival of the Sea Urchin in Suape Bay (PE, Brazil) and in the Village of Carry-le-Rouet (Bouches-du-Rhône, France): Between Port Management and the Preservation of Marine Resources.”

María Elena Martínez-Torres

María Elena Martínez-Torres is a faculty member in the Environment and Society Program at the Center for Research and Graduate Studies on Social Anthropology - Southeast Campus (CIESAS-Sureste), located in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. She was trained as a geographer at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and has a PhD in Latin American studies from the University of California at Berkeley. She is the author of Organic Coffee: Sustainable Development by Mayan Farmers (Ohio University Press, 2006), and of a number of articles and book chapters about rural social movements, agroecology and organic farming, education and autonomy, food sovereignty, and Diálogo de Saberes. She is a visiting professor at the Federal University of Paraíba, where she collaborates on research projects with Indigenous peoples of Northeastern Brazil.

Maristela Oliveira de Andrade

Maristela Oliveira de Andrade holds a doctorate in Latin American studies (anthropology and the sociology of religion) from the Institut des Hautes Études de l'Amérique Latine - Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, and is a professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Paraíba. She has taught in the postgraduate program in Sciences of Religion and currently teaches in two postgraduate programs at her university: Anthropology (PPGA) and Development and Environment (PRODEMA). She is the deputy coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Research Group in Culture, Society and Environment.




How to Cite

de Oliveira Santos, Juana, María Elena Martínez-Torres, and Maristela Oliveira de Andrade. 2021. “Beyond the Nature-Culture Frontier: Sea Urchin Festivals in French and Brazilian Communities”. Journal of Festive Studies 3 (1):151-76.