Journal of Romance Studies

Floating signifiers: Cruise ships and the memory of other voyages

Journal of Romance Studies (2014), 14, (2), 78–90.

Abstract

Oceans are the bearers of the narratives of voyages – of exploration, of the movement of populations and goods – that were and continue to be taken upon them. The cruise ships that ply them are potent symbols of the social meaning of oceans in the way they stage their relation to these narratives. This article aims to complement tourism studies perspectives on the cruise industry with an analysis of cultural texts that suggest that cruise ships and ocean liners are not simply instruments of neoliberalization or agents of the industrial North’s symbolic and real appropriations of landscapes of the Global South; rather, these vessels function simultaneously as indicators of neocolonial situations and, more importantly, as reminders of a history that structures present relations between former colonizers and the formerly colonized in the Americas: the history of slavery and, as it concerns the ships and their ‘cargo’ specifically, the Middle Passage.

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Watts, Richard