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Reconfiguring the shipping news: Maritime's hidden histories and the politics of gender display

Meecham, P; (2008) Reconfiguring the shipping news: Maritime's hidden histories and the politics of gender display. Sex Education , 8 (3) pp. 371-380. 10.1080/14681810802218478. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper discusses the book Hello Sailor! The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea published in 2003 by Paul Baker and Jo Stanley, re-interpreted as a landmark temporary exhibition Hello Sailor! Gay Life on the Ocean Wave at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool from where it travelled in 2007 to other maritime museums. Based largely on oral history interviews and part of a hidden histories project, the book recovers the previously repressed twentieth-century histories of gay sailors in the 'gay heaven' of the merchant navy. This paper explores the construction of gay seafarers presented in the book and exhibition. It reveals what can be understood about the re-presentation of gendered identities and relations through the celebration of camp and cross-dressing. Baker and Stanley draw on queer theory rather than gay and lesbian studies, and argue that the recovered history is not about civil rights but is rather'a politics of carnival, transgression and parody'. The book and, to a greater extent, the exhibition, however, only partially unravel two important issues: sex and misogyny. The present paper asks what light 'hidden histories' re-presented in museums can shed on gender and sexual relations in the present.

Type: Article
Title: Reconfiguring the shipping news: Maritime's hidden histories and the politics of gender display
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/14681810802218478
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1530236
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