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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M. The Death of Great Ships: photography, politics and waste in the global imaginary. Environment & Planning A. 2010;42:1084-1102.

Author(s) from Durham


The iconic images heralding an age of connectivity are the plane and the trace of digital flows bearing information. However, not far behind has been the cumbrous yet essential 'big box' of containerisation, shipping all manner of goods across the planet on great vessels remorselessly circling the globe. Critiques of global trade have latched upon the counter image of these mighty ships' ruinous carcasses beached and being broken in South Asia. Here then is the antipode of globalisation - ships, once carrying cargoes now themselves sold around the globe for scrap and ending up broken up according to the very logics of cheap locations that their routes made possible. This paper interrogates these counter-images of global capitalism. Looking at the works of various photographers it examines how waste ships are made to work aesthetically. It examines the photodocumentary and traditions of the industrial sublime to find ‘time-images’ that speak to the material and labour worlds of global capital.

Department of Geography