Spence, Emma

Start date:
October 2011
Research Topic:
An assemblage approach to ship, sea and shore
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr J Anderson
Supervising school:
School of Planning and Geography,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My research draws upon ethnographic fieldwork to explore the social-spatial relations of seafarers. I seek to explain how the use of assemblage theory in conceptualizing the place of the boat, the sea and the shore can help us to further understand the cultural processes, liminality and inherent mobility of seafarers. Assemblage theory is a form of relational thinking that views place as a whole that can be broken down into separate ontological, experiential, human and non-human components (see McFarlane and Anderson, 2011). These components function in their own right when detached, but the compilation of these parts creates ‘irreducible properties’ that assemble place (DeLanda, 2006). Thinking in terms of assemblage allows us to unravel the concentrations of entwined social and spatial interactions of seafarers and their relationship with their vessel, the sea and the shore. My research, therefore, seeks to identify the tensions and fractures that trigger the realignments of the ship-sea-shore assemblage for seafarers, in addition to further understanding the mobile and liminal lives of this group. Conceptually, my research seeks to situate assemblage within the mobilities field, whilst evaluating its contribution to existing relational thinking. I will draw upon ethnographic experiences to explore the methodological implications of applying assemblage theory empirically.