Trapped on Love Boat: Middling and Transient Entrapment among Balkan Seafarers in the Cruise Industry

Burcu Akan Ellis

Abstract

Globalization has led to a plethora of temporary, seasonal and transient jobs characterized by poor work conditions, tolerated by workers with the hope that such jobs will lead to better positions. Yet, it is not uncommon to find workers that spend years in temporary positions. Examining a cadre of cruise crew members from the Balkans who have repeatedly occupied transient jobs, this study addresses the underpinning discourses of savings, care and human capital that serve both to sustain and to entrap workers in transient positions. The ability to save and remit savings to their families allow transient workers to engage in “middling” back home, saving money to invest in homes, businesses or mobility capital. However, structural constraints on labor markets and a disconnect from local networks limit their ability to reach their goals and leverage their time on board to secure more permanent jobs, prompting the workers to repeatedly return to their temporary seafarer positions.

Keywords

transient migration; cruise workers; gender; Balkans; Transnational labor; Bourdieu

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