Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Tall Ships and Social Capital: A Study of their Interconnections

Naomi Berman.

Sail-training programs are under-explored, but offer a rich source of sociological insights. Around the world these programs use tall ships to provide an environment resembling that of a ‘total institution’ whereby the youth are taken out of the familiarity of their home environment and literally launched out to sea. Few studies have explored the interactional dimensions of these programs, and the longer-term social changes for both the participants and the communities in which they live.

This paper seeks to examine the interconnections between the voyage experience and the construction of social capital in the youth who participate. Employing data from longitudinal and qualitative research on the Young Endeavour, an Australian sail-training vessel, this paper will discuss the impact of the program on the individual and its broader implications within a framework of social capital.

Among the key themes to emerge from the research the study suggests an interesting relationship between diversity and homogeneity in the production of social capital. For the duration of the voyage a pursuit of common goals and ultimately a shared experience overwrote the diversity of participants’ individual lives. This in turn resulted in greater levels of trust and tolerance amongst the participants, an effect that extended beyond the ten-day voyage. Trust and tolerance are the keystones to any civic society and the ship serves as an effective conduit for the transmission of these and other cultural values.


Naomi Berman  (Australia)
PhD student
Department of Sociology and Social Policy›
University of Sydney

Naomi has been working in the Department of Sociology at the University of Sydney for a number of years as a tutor and research assistant. She is currently working (towards a PhD) on a collaborative research project between the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme (Department of Defence) and the University of Sydney. Her research interests include social capital, youth development, cyberculture and subjectivity.

  • Tall ships
  • Social Capital
  • Youth Development

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)