Monday, 28 June 2010

Exploring the sea and identity.

It's a really interesting question. How/why does being at sea enable people to explore new identities - both passengers and crew?

I'll be giving a paper about how this worked for British merchant seafarers who explored sexual orientation and enjoyed an often outrageously gay life at sea, but were married or closeted at home. As they proclaimed with glee 'Nothing's "queer" once you've left that pier!"

This paper is They thought they were normal - and queens too: gay seafarers on British liners 1955-1985. The chance to hear it and think widely about identity - can be enjoyed at Who Did They Think They Were?:The Sea and the making of Identities, 44th Exeter Maritime History Conference, University of Exeter, 18-19 September, 2010.

Go to

The draft programme is now out. Provisionally I'll be speaking at 11.30 on Saturday Sept 18.

The blurb says it's 'A conference focusing on the relationship between the sea and identity in widest possible sense, naval or maritime; local,regional, national or international; gender and sexuality; fact, film or fiction.

'It will look beyond the usual nationalistic rhetoric to explore how identity has been moulded by attitude to and relationships with the sea. The conference will interrogate the idea of identity in its various manifestations in order to examine the importance of the sea to different audiences.'

Papers include:
• Identifying ‘seagoing races’: Britain’s colonial naval volunteers and the forging ofidentity during the Second World War.
• The Navy at Home: The creation of British identity in the domestic sphere 1793-1815.
• The identity of RN submarine commanders in the Second World War.
• Regional voices: national causes 1930-1945.
• Defying Conformity: Using tattoos to express individuality in the Victorian Navy.

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