We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Image: Death, the Phoenix and Pandora: transforming things and values in Bangladesh.Crang, M., Gregson, N., Ahamed, F., Ferdous, R. & Akhter, N. Death, the Phoenix and Pandora: transforming things and values in Bangladesh. In: Alexander, C. & Reno, J. Economies of Recycling: The global transformation of materials, values and social relations. London: Zed Books; 2012:59-75.

Author(s) from Durham


Ships are both the glue and grease of the global economy. The merchant vessel of the late twentieth-century and early twenty first-century, combined with the technology of the big box container, is the means by which most commodities move around the world—although its central role and those of maritime spaces are all too often overlooked (Levinson, 2006; Sekula 2001). But ships themselves are also commodities and they too change value and move through value regimes. In the case of their commercial life, which is likely to be 25 – 32 years including periodic refits, ships progressively downgrade in terms of profitability and value. This chapter charts the passage of such vessels. We look at how these enduring and mobile objects that, in life, link topographically distant ports into trading networks carrying commodities, cross into different networks of disposal and reuse, at the death. At this moment they are linked to different locations such as breaking yards, where they become mutable and are broken apart. These breaking locations enable them to be reborn as new commodities in different networks of value. As in Thompson’s (1979) formulation, the category of waste is a fulcrum point, where one form of value dies, yet another can be born. Here, we show how disparate networks are linked through processes of material destruction and transformation enabling the rebirth of value.

Department of Geography