Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Tall Ships - Agents of Transformation

Dr Llyn Smith.

This paper explores the phenomenal growth of sail-training on tall ships against a backdrop of transformations in global capital and the restructuring of the conditions of labour. There is a particular focus on the metaphorical and philosophical ways in which the experience is both subjectively understood by students and presented to the public by organizations. (“You can’t change the ocean – you can only change your course.” “Sail a square-rigger and learn what you need to know for life in the twenty-first century”.) Based on research on sail-training organizations in the United States, Australia and the U.K., I argue that a tall ship offers a space where “community” is inescapable
and self–discovery is guaranteed, through the experience of teamwork, the overcoming of hardships and the appreciation of the overwhelming power of nature. The ocean has always been represented as primordial and liminal space and the demands of contemporary capitalism for new social relations take advantage of this arena of possibility.


Dr Llyn Smith  (United States)
Chair / Associate Professor
Anthropology Department
Humboldt State University

Llyn Smith teaches Anthropology at Humboldt State University in Northern California. She completed an undergraduate degree in Anthropology at Adelaide University, and a PhD at University College London. She has undertaken research on transsexuality and Islamic cosmology and the constitution of Islamic community in South Asia. She is currently investigating the growth of “sail training” on “tall ships” as a response to transformations in global capital and the restructuring of the conditions of labour.

  • Sail-training
  • Globalization
  • Subjectivity

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)