Iceberg Economies


In: TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3138/topia.32.179

In A Postcapitalist Politics (2006), J.K. Gibson-Graham deploy an image of a floating iceberg to illustrate what we commonly understand by “the economy.” In their reading of the diverse economy framework, the proverbial tip of the iceberg economy is comprised of “wage labor, market exchange of commodities, and capitalist enterprise” (2006: 70). By contrast, its submerged body can include a multiplicity of sites and actors such as producer cooperatives, bartering practices, and gifts.

On the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, in the once-thriving fishing port of St. Anthony, icebergs are being harvested for bottling and sale in the global premium water market. At international trade fairs from Dubai to Shanghai, iceberg water is marketed as the purest water on the planet and a resource originating from a time before the dire effects of pollution and mass industrialization. This article traces the various encounters between icebergs and human actors in the geographical region known as “Iceberg Alley,” in order to assess the social, cultural, economic, and political stakes of these “new” natural resources. The article asks, “If Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley is ‘the economy,’ what lies below its surface?”