Accepted paper:

Container Ships, Assembled. Ethnographic Tales from the World's Shipbuilding Centers.

Author:

Elisabeth Schober (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

What kind of labour goes into the making of a container ship? In this paper, I engage ethnographic material collected during fieldwork in South Korea and the Philippines to shed light on how ongoing global economic uncertainties affect labour within the (East & S.E. Asian) shipbuilding industry.

Paper long abstract:

What kind of labour goes into the making of a container ship? Often seen as the most significant icon of economic globalization, an ever-growing amount of commodities in circulation on this planet end up in stores after having been transported on this type of vessel first. The ubiquity of the image of the container ship as a stand-in for globalization, typically used as a stock photo to signal "global business", however, stands in contradiction to a rather peculiar issue: the thing so often depicted upon closer inspection turns out to be vastly understudied, especially among anthropologists. Recently, container ships have significantly grown in size, as stacking ever more containers on a single vessel has been one response to the challenges emerging during and after the crisis of 2007/08. The result has been a rise in the demand for ultra-large container ships, which East and Southeast Asian shipbuilders produce for the major players in the shipping industry. In this paper, I will engage ethnographic material collected during fieldwork in South Korea and the Philippines to shed light on how ongoing global economic uncertainties affect labour within this maritime world. While Korea has been one of the world's key players in ship-building since the 1970s, recent improvements in workers' wage levels have made the country vulnerable to encroachments by cheaper competitors. The Philippines, on the other hand, is a very recent arrival to the scene, and as of yet heavily depends on Korean direct investors to bring in capital and know-how.

panel P082
Moving the goods: maritime mobility and logistics labour [ANTHROMOB]