chapter  1
18 Pages

Masculinities afloat: Filipino seafarers and the situational performance of manhood: Steven Mckay and Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno III


Migrants from the Philippines have been central to the scholarship on both gender and migration. Yet few studies have focused on Filipino masculinity and almost none on one of the country’s most dominant global occupational niches: merchant seafaring. Our research reveals that due to their work, remittances and growing visibility, Filipino seamen are often constructed – by themselves and by other Filipinos – as ‘exemplars of masculinity’ (Connell 1995). Nevertheless, they toil primarily at the lower rungs of an occupational and multinational hierarchy, and must grapple with both limited upward mobility and a reputation in the industry as merely ‘good followers’. Drawing on interviews and extensive ethnographic field research conducted in the Philippines; in seaports in Europe, Asia and South America; and onboard five merchant ships with Filipino and mixed-nationality crews, this chapter focuses on the constructions and transnational performances of manhood among Filipino seafarers, tracing their strategies to compensate for their marginalization.1 We argue that Filipino seafarers are caught in a ‘masculine dialectic’ between models of middle-class professionalism on the one hand, and working-class hyper-masculinity of adventure on the other.