The Life of Commerce at Sea: power, inequality and loneliness on international waters. Lecture by prof. Laleh Khalili
Freighters involve harsh working environments, exploitation and loneliness, and months away from home. Life at sea has always been the source of imaginative tales. But what is seafaring life like and how does it reflect the power relations in oil commerce and the global economy? A lecture on camaraderie, hardship, and the struggle for power at sea.
In her lecture, Professor Laleh Khalili reflects on the lives and bodies of modern seafarers in the western Indian Ocean. Khalili takes the body of the seafarer as a starting point to address issues like exploitation and unregulated shipping companies. The seafarer is one anchor of the global economy. What can such human-scale experiences tell us about capitalism? How is the body of the seafarer related to the economy of the Arab world and its global network?
Out at sea, the everyday life of seafarers is shaped by their daily interactions with one another and their officers of various nationalities. Seafarers are also at the mercy of the weather, piracy, and the latest technologies. Long periods of isolation and loneliness are interspersed with moments of joy and increasingly rare rest and recuperation upon arrival in port.
Laleh Khalili is Professor of International Politics at the Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on infrastructures, political violence, transnational movements of ideas and practices, and the Middle East. Her forthcoming book, Sinews of War and Trade (Verso 2020), examines the role of maritime infrastructures as conduits of movement of technologies, capital, people and cargo.