Shipping Out

Race, Performance, and Labor at Sea

Subjects: Theater and Performance, Dance, American Studies, Class Studies
Open Access : 9780472904860, 232 pages, 37 photos, 1 table, 6 x 9, February 2025
Paperback : 9780472057245, 232 pages, 37 photos, 1 table, 6 x 9, February 2025
Hardcover : 9780472077243, 232 pages, 37 photos, 1 table, 6 x 9, February 2025
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How race, performance, and labor interconnect on Caribbean cruise ships through the lens of a destination lecturer


Shipping Out: Race, Performance, and Labor at Sea provides a rare perspective on performance by staff above and below deck on Caribbean cruise ships, as viewed through the lenses of race, class, and gender. Drawing on her experiences as a destination lecturer on Caribbean cruise lines for twenty years, Anita Gonzalez offers a unique viewpoint as she examines contemporary Caribbean cruise culture as an ethnographically complex site where North American and European travelers are exposed to other cultures through the orchestrated experiences on ship, and via excursions to ports. Gonzales argues that the cruise ship experience is deliberately crafted to deliver the best immersive performance by its workers. However, the workers never leave the theater, they merely move below deck—and like ships’ stewards and cooks from previous centuries, they work within an imaginary where Global Majority people are envisioned as servants. By utilizing ethnography and archival materials to illustrate the ship worker’s experiences on contemporary cruise ships, and then contrasting those circumstances with the personal accounts of workers on historical merchant ships, Shipping Out illuminates how workers’ presence on ships complicates notions of freedom and enslavement, home and journey, place and space. 

Anita Gonzalez is Professor of Performing Arts and Black Studies, and co-founder of the Racial Justice Institute at Georgetown University.