Elisabeth Schober, anthropologist

I am a social anthropologist based at the University of Oslo. My research and teaching interests are in maritime logistics and ship-building, gender and sexuality, and economic globalization. My primary regional focus is South Korea, but I have also undertaken fieldwork in the Philippines and in various locations in Europe. I have written and co-edited several books, most recently "Base Encounters. The US Armed Forces in South Korea" (Pluto Press, 2016). I am currently the Principal Investigator at "Life Cycle of Container ships" - a research project funded under the FRIPRO-"Young Research Talent"-Scheme of the Norwegian Research Council. I also lead "PORTS" - a project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under grant agreement number 851132.

See more at my University of Oslo-page.

Photo by Ian Cook
Global Ethnographic explorations into Maritime Working Lives.
The Life Cycle of Container Ships.
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.

See more at University of Oslo's project page, or get in touch via Facebook.
infrastructure, work, and place around leading urban container ports
The ERC-funded project PORTS (2020-2025) will explore how global capitalism plays out in four maritime cities (Rotterdam, Piraeus, Singapore, Pusan) that are big in container handling.

Nearly all the commodities we surround ourselves with come to us, often from distant locations, via ship.

Most of the goods we buy nowadays are manufactured in Asia, and by extension, many of the busiest container ports are located in that part of the world too. Europe is increasingly playing a more marginal role here: Rotterdam, for instance, our continent's most important port, is only the 13th largest port in the world.

Because maritime trade is so central to the functioning of the world economy, ports are great sites to investigate, if one is interested in the shift of the centre of gravity from the West to the East.

See more at University of Oslo's project page.
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Photo credits: Centerpartiet (official)/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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