Let $p:E\to B$ be a functor and $b\in B$ an object. The essential fiber of $p$ over $b$ is the following category:

its objects are pairs $(e,\phi)$ where $e\in E$ is an object and $\phi\colon p(e)\cong b$ is an isomorphism.

its morphisms $(e,\phi)\to (e',\phi')$ are morphisms $f\colon e\to e'$ in $E$ such that $\phi' \circ p(f) = \phi$.

The essential fiber can be identified with the pseudopullback of $p$ along the functor $b\colon 1\to B$ from the terminal category which picks out the object $b$. It can also be identified with a homotopy fiber in the canonical model structure on Cat. When groupoids are identified with homotopy 1-types, the essential fiber actually coincides with the classical homotopy fiber (up to equivalence).

Relationship to fibrations

If $p$ is an isofibration, then any of its essential fibers is equivalent to the corresponding strict fiber. This includes the case when $p$ is a Grothendieck fibration.

On the other hand, when $p$ is a Street fibration (the non-evil version of a Grothendieck fibration), then essential fibers do not coincide with strict fibers, and essential fibers are the more useful notion. In particular, the correspondence between fibrations and pseudofunctors only goes through for Street fibrations if one defines the pseudofunctor using essential fibers.

Revised on September 16, 2010 16:59:48
by Urs Schreiber
(188.20.66.18)