The material culture of seafarers and the circulation of intimate things

Prof. Uma Kothari1

1University of Manchester, Manchester, UK


Sea mobilities have always connected people, places and things and the volume of goods conveyed by ship is ever-increasing. While the maritime transportation of goods has tended to focus on ships’ cargoes, an exploration of the material geographies of seafaring reveal the movement and circulation of a range of other more personal and intimate objects. The possessions seafarers take on their journeys such as keepsakes and photographs of family, the gifts they buy in port, and the books and clothing they are given at Missions to Seafarers around the globe combine to facilitate dwelling at sea, fostering relationships with home and places visited


Professor of Migration and Postcolonial Studies, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She is the co-founder of the Manchester Migration Lab and principal investigator on an ESRC funded project on Everyday Lives and Environmental Change. Current research include Everyday Humanitarianism and Solidarity and A Cultural History of Seafarers. She is co-editor of the Frontiers of Development book series, Oxford University Press and is Vice President of the European Association of Development Institutes. She is on the advisory board of In Place of War, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Filipino seafarers, sailing the frozen seas of Finland

Ms Jonna Laine1

1University Of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland


Ninety percent of the global transport is made by ships and about 20% of the 1.5 million seafarers come from The Philippines. Their existence and their life stories are unknown to many outside the maritime industry, as nowadays the seafarers are not a common sight outside the ships and closed ports. In the Finnish vessels Filipino seafarers are fairly new phenomenon, as the mixed crew policy (a possibility for the ship owners to recruit crew members from outside the EU) was agreed in 2009. The Finnish seafarers have good and secured working conditions, but they work on board together with the Filipinos, who sign very different work contracts with lower salary and social benefits. I will discuss how these two groups of people from different backgrounds and cultures interact and cooperate in the vessels’ closed space. My focus is on the Filipinos, especially on their own stories and experiences

Laine, Jonna. PhD Student, University of Jyväskylä, Department of Anthropology and Ethnology. Research interests: Maritime history and maritime ethnology, Filipino seafarers.


Master of Arts (ethnology), University of Helsinki, Finland, 2016.

PhD student (ethnology and anthropology), University of Jyväskylä, Finland, from 2017.

Assistant researcher in project ‘Fair working conditions: exploring the contribution of cooperation initiativs between Social Partners and Labour Inspection authorities (SPLIN)’ University of Jyväskylä, ongoing.

Seafarers and Weather

Dr Maria Borovnik1

1Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand


Seafarers are exposed, enveloped and embedded in weather while working and travelling on tankers, cargo or containerships. In some cases, their journeys will go along extremely different weathers within only short time periods. Every day, vessel steering, oiling, cleaning, rust removing, cooking and serving, cargo loading and unloading goes on in any weather. In this paper, I will consider how seafarers from tropical island states, such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, experience the change in weather when embarking on their merchant seafaring travels on tankers, containerships, and other cargo ships and while they are travelling from port to port. Containerships travel along loops and while doing so may cross a range of different time and weather zones. Therefore, I will also draw on my own experiences and observations on my one-month journey on a containership travels across the Indian Ocean, the South and West China Seas. Specifically, I want to look at the embodied experiences of changing weather, and how these are part of global transport and the everyday work of seafarers.


Maria Borovnik is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at Massey University, New Zealand. She has recently joined the Editorial Team of ‘Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies’; and is Book Review Editor of the ‘New Zealand Geographer’. Her current interests are in the intersection of mobilities, landscape and weather, and has, in the past, explored seafarers’ realities from economic, health, and cultural-social perspectives.

The Place Between: an intergenerational practice-led approach to the geographies of seafaring

Ms Clare McCracken1

1Rmit Univeristy, Melbourne, Australia


On the 21st of July 2018, I boarded the ANL Wahroonga containership and steamed from Australia to China – dwelling in motion for 13 days.  The route roughly mirrored that of my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Amy Cathcart Payne, who travelled from Australia to Asia by ship in 1874.

This paper interrogates a series of artworks that grew directly from the experience of being at sea, as well as from the pages of Amy’s diary – a well thumbed handwritten notebook about her voyage which has been passed down through generations of my family.  In doing so, it reflects on the place between Australia and the rest of the world, the social and political nature of international shipping, and the mobility of women in the 19th and 21st century.


Clare McCracken is a Melbourne-based, socially engaged artist and PhD candidate at RMIT University. She is the recipient of the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship. Clare’s research sits at the intersection of art, cultural geography and urban theory.  She works site-specifically to create large-scale immersive installations, fine art objects and contemporary performance works that encourage a local dialogue about issues including planning, urban futures, connection to place, ecologies and gender equality. Her practice is characterised by strong and often textural visuals, innovation, performance, participation, story telling, humour and fiction.

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