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The Place Between: a generational embodied experience of being at sea

Authors: Clare McCracken*, RMIT University
Topics: Australia and New Zealand, Cultural Geography, Oceanography
Keywords: container ship, mobile method, ocean, women's mobility
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 4
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


On the 21st of July 2018, I boarded the ANL Wahroonga container ship and steamed from Australia to Asia – dwelling in motion for 13 days. The route roughly followed that of my great-great-grandmother Amy Elizabeth Cathcart Payne who traveled unaccompanied from Australia to Asia in 1874, and wrote a detailed journal of her experience.

Since the 1980s, researchers have delved into the unpublished manuscripts and journals of female Victorian era travelers to construct an understanding of how white women of means saw the places that they traveled through in the 19th century. This performance lecture weaves together sections of Elizabeth’s diary, with my own travel journal, to construct an understanding of the place between Australia and the rest of the world, the social and political nature of international shipping between two centuries (19th and 21st) and the mobility of women.

To help me comprehend the corporeal experience of being at sea in the Victorian era, the research employed a performance mobile methodology. Each day I was afloat I would wear a hybrid costume – part 19th century lady traveler, part 20th century merchant sea-woman. The costume was comprised of a pair of navy-blue coveralls (the uniform of contemporary merchant shipping), a corset and a long section of fabric equal to the length of a Victorian skirt. Thus this performance lecture also interrogates how the elements of Victorian era clothing, in particular, shift women’s experience of the waves, the steep steps of the ship and the spray of sea water.

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