Skip to main content

Between Sea and City: Ethnographic explorations of infrastructure, work, and place around leading urban container ports

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Ports (Between Sea and City: Ethnographic explorations of infrastructure, work, and place around leading urban container ports)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

The ERC-funded project Ports will explore how global capitalism plays out in four maritime cities (Rotterdam, Piraeus, Singapore, Pusan) that are big in container handling.

Nearly all the commodities we surround ourselves with come to us, often from distant locations, via ship.

Most of the goods we buy nowadays are manufactured in Asia, and by extension, many of the busiest container ports are located in that part of the world too. Europe is increasingly playing a more marginal role here: Rotterdam, for instance, our continent’s most important port, is only the 13th largest port in the world.

Because maritime trade is so central to the functioning of the world economy, ports are great sites to investigate, if one is interested in the shift of the centre of gravity from the West to the East.
Activity 1 (recruitment): By September 2020, we completed the hiring process of three early career researchers (postdoc Dr. E. Sibilia; postdoc Dr. V. Baumer Escobar; and PhD fellow G. Poulimenakos). In addition, we have hired, on a 20% position, Dr. Hege Leivestad, one of the world’s leading experts when it comes to port ethnographies. Activity 2 (kick-off): We have held an internal kick-off event 15-16 Sept. 2021 (
Activity 3 (establishing weekly internal seminars): Since February 2021, we have held regular internal meetings; once a month, we have also used this space to conduct a reading group that also includes members of the PI’s other maritime project (see reading list at Activity 4 (preparing ports seminar series): After a Covid-related delay, we are now in the process of setting up the seminar series, which will be held via zoom to attract a larger audience outside of the institution that PORTS is anchored in. The seminars will be recorded and shared via the website. First seminar to be held in December 2021, to be continued in a bi-monthly format. Activity 5 (field work plans): All project participants have submitted their projects to the Norwegian Centre for Research Data, with 2 out of 4 having already received their clearances. Given current covid-restrictions in South Korea and Singapore, 2 of us are currently delayed with their fieldwork plans, but we anticipate that by autumn 2022, all 4 core researchers will commence with fieldwork.
PORTS opening workshop