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IRSJ Research fellow embarks on historic ‘voyage’
2017-12-11

Description: Grider read more Tags: Prof John Grider, Foreign Voyage, Pacific Labour Identity, IRSJ, Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ),   

Prof John T Grider, making the maritime past alive again in the minds
of a new generation.
Photo: Eugene Seegers


 

Prof John Grider, Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the USA and a Research Fellow in the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ) at the University of the Free State (UFS), has launched a book based on more than a decade of research into the Pacific maritime labour identity. His monograph, entitled A Foreign Voyage—Pacific Labour Identity, 1840-1890, delves into the history of the maritime industry, not only as a vehicle for expanding the processes of capitalism, colonialism, industrialisation, and globalisation, but is also exploring the impact of this industry on the shifts in gender, race, class, and technology.

As a student in Colorado, a homesick Grider tried to connect with his coastal roots via research. “Before I started to explore the maritime history, I thought of the ocean as a type of boundary that you sometimes need to cross. The truth is that globalisation happens on ships.” Prof Grider’s passion for Pacific maritime labour identity generates colourful discussions on the topic. Masculine sailors confronted by technological de-skilling that corroded away their identity, come to life as he talks and writes. “I try to show students that history is more than a story about the powerful few, and that everyday people, who may seem powerless, play a major role in shaping the past and the future.”

This monograph is based on first-hand, previously unpublished accounts of daily life at sea, often from ships’ logs and the diaries kept by the men who sailed them. The culmination of much painstaking research and supporting evidence, this book investigates the complex interplay between gender, class, and race sourced from the narratives of men who found themselves working in the transforming Pacific maritime industry during the mid-nineteenth century. A powerful lesson to be learnt from this fascinating segment of maritime labour history, is adaptability, “especially in today’s rapidly changing labour world”, Prof Grider says. 

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