Liang Wu

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York, Graduate Center, City U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9867

Approve Date

May 1, 2019

Project Title

Wu, Liang (New York, Graduate Center, City U. of) "Humans at Sea: Mobilities and Immobilities of Seafarers Working in the International Shipping Industry"

LIANG WU, then a graduate student at City University of New York, Graduate Center, New York, New York, was awarded funding in May 2019 to aid research on “Humans at Sea: Mobilities and Immobilities of Seafarers Working in the International Shipping Industry,” supervised by Dr. Karen Strassler. This project studied the lived experiences and meanings of mobility and immobility of contemporary seafarers working on board ocean-going container ships of the international shipping industry. This multi-sited and multidimensional research involved ethnographic fieldwork at the Ports of Hong Kong and New York, archival studies, and online research conducted from July 2019 to June 2020. Based on these mixed methods, the project examined the technoeconomic, infrastructural, and legal developments of shipping in the postwar era, the concomitant changing society and culture of port cities and shipboard communities, sociotechnical and sociopolitical dynamics generated by the global expedition of material goods and products, as well as the mechanisms and mediations through which multinational seafarers navigate ships and oceans, their overseas relationships, job conditions, state administrations, and international law. The grantee researched seafarers as hands-on operators who deliver our everyday commodities, as well as the structural and systematic power relations that are moving and controlling these maritime workers in fulfilling our need for overseas supplies. This project shed light on the largely externalized and invisibilized human costs, social logistics, and mobility politics involved in transoceanic shipping and economic globalization, thus enhancing our understanding of the sociocultural logics and processes integral to international supply chain operation.


Wu, Liang, et al. 2020. Are We in the Same Boat? Ethnographic Lessons of Sheltering in Place from International Seafarers and Algerian Harraga in the Age of Global Pandemic. Anthropology Now, 12:1, 55-65, DOI: 10.1080/19428200.2020.1761211