Container Ships

(Dis-)Assembling the Life Cycle of Container Ships. Global Ethnographic explorations into Maritime Working Lives.

By NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About the project

The container ship is 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 container ships 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” in many media contexts, stands in contradiction to a rather peculiar issue: the object so often depicted upon closer inspection turns out to be vastly understudied, especially amongst social scientists. This is particularly true when it comes to the worlds of maritime work around container ships that are usually operating far away from the spotlight of concerned end-consumers of the goods being transported on them.

Shipbuilding, shipping, and ship-breaking are three key maritime industries that make up the most central nodes enabling the life cycle of a container ship. The objective of the project is to shed new light on the globe-spanning networks around these vessels, and on the workers that are involved in making, maintaining, and breaking the ships. By uniting three ethnographic sub-projects - one focusing on shipbuilding in South Korea and the Philippines, one on global shipping process, and one on ship-breaking in South Asia – the focus is also on the connections and disjunctures between the different components that make, maintain, and break container ships. The combination of ethnography with a large-scale "interpretive" comparison-making perspective will allow for the exploration of some of the key social, political and economic relations that feed into global economic processes today.


The project is funded with NOK 7 992 000 under the FRIPRO-"Young Research Talent"-Scheme of the Norwegian Research Council, and will run between 2018-2021.

By NOAA's National Ocean Service (Flickr: Container Ship) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By NOAA's National Ocean Service (Flickr: Container Ship) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Published Mar. 13, 2018 1:12 PM - Last modified Mar. 13, 2018 1:32 PM