Laleh KhaliliNov 11, 2023
Corporeal Life of Seafaring
The body of the seafarer is a fulcrum upon which global systems of power, longstanding maritime traditions, and gendered and racialised pressures all rest. In this vital new essay, scholar Laleh Khalili draws on her ongoing research and experiences of travelling on cargo ships to explore the embodied life of these labourers. She investigates an experience riddled with adversities – loneliness, loss, and violence, stolen wages and exploitative shipowners – as well as ephemeral moments of joy and solidarity. In the unique arena of the ship, Khalili traces the many forms of corporeality involved in work at sea and the ways the body is engaged by the institutions that engulf seafarers’ lives and work.
Illustrated throughout with the author’s own photographs, this book takes in both scholarly and literary accounts to describe with care and imagination the material and physical realities of contemporary commerce at sea. Drawing on the insights of feminists and scholars of racial capitalism, it centres the lives of those so often forgotten or dismissed in enterprises of capital accumulation and the raced and gendered hierarchies that shape them.
Laleh Khalili is an Al-Qasimi Professor of Gulf Studies at the University of Exeter. Among her published books: "Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: the Politics of National Commemoration" (Cambridge 2007) and "Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgency" (Stanford 2013), both of which delve into the representations and practices of violence. She also co-edited a volume with Jillian Schwedler titled "Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion" (Hurst 2010). Her most recent book, "Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula" (Verso 2020), explores the pivotal role of maritime infrastructures in facilitating the movement of technologies, capital, people, and cargo.
Tamara Fernando is an assistant professor in the History of the Global South, at Stony Brook University, New York. Her research and teaching interests are located at the intersection of labor, environment, and science histories, with a specific focus on the nineteenth and twentieth-century Indian Ocean world. Her current book project, "Shallow Blue Empire: Knowing the Littoral across the Indian Ocean," aspires to uncover a "history below the water line" through a trans-national account of the pearling industry across the northern Indian Ocean. This work centers on the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mannar, and the Mergui/Myeik archipelago, elucidating how modes of knowledge about the littoral zone of the ocean were determined in the context of the British Empire at the turn of the twentieth century. She is deeply committed to employing trans-regional and interdisciplinary methods in the study of the past, as well as addressing the question of how to craft global histories of science.
Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law, the occult sciences, and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.