Colloquium: Jonathan Hyslop, 'Ghostlike' Seafarers and Sailing Ship Nostalgia..."
NOV 08, 2013 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM
The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
November 08, 2013: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM
Jonathan Hyslop, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
'Ghostlike' Seafarers and Sailing Ship Nostalgia: The Figure of the Steamship Lascar in the British Imagination c. 1880-1960
Steamship navigation transformed global trade in the 1870s and remained the dominant maritime technology until it began to be overtaken by oil-fired ships in the 1940s. During this period the British merchant fleet was by far the most important in the world. Its ships were crewed not only by British seafarers but also by significant numbers of 'lascars', a group of workers comprising mainly South Asians, but including many recruits from the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa. This paper focuses on the paradoxes which infused the counterposed representations of 'lascars' as against British sailors in the United Kingdom, through this era and its immediate aftermath. The paper shows how writers, bureaucrats, politicians, ship owners, maritime officers and medical professionals engaged in intense contestations about the supposed characteristics of the these workers, and how these debates impacted on policies toward the merchant navy, and on the lives of the 'lascars' themselves.