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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.