In the Wake of Asbestos: Ship Building and Ship Breaking in Ross Raisin's <i>Waterline</i> and Tahmima Anam's <i>The Bones of Grace</i>

  • Arthur Rose
Keywords: asbestos, shipping literature, oikeios, the wake, Ross Raisin, Tahmima Anam


Variations in work conditions, and their consequences for social fragility and health precarity, become particularly evident when comparing industries that cross parallel postcolonial economies. This article pairs the ship-building and ship-breaking industries to bridge a pseudo-divide between the Global North and the Global South. It brings together two cultural works—Ross Raisin’s Waterline (2011) and Tahmima Anam’s The Bones of Grace (2016)—that share a preoccupation with the consequences of either ship-building or ship-breaking, but which do not consider how these activities might produce different latent morbidities. Preoccupied with the immediate health concerns of their own histories, whether Glasgow’s ship-building or Chittagong’s ship-breaking industries, these texts pay scant attention to shared histories that intersect across this divide. Reading the novels together, on the basis of the conceit, demonstrates how each might supplement the other in attending to the health experiences of workers in ship construction and destruction.

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust (grant no. 103339) as part of its project, ‘Life of Breath: Breathing in Cultural, Clinical and Lived Experience’.

Author Biography

Arthur Rose
Arthur Rose is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in English Studies at Durham University, UK, where he is an affiliate of the Wellcome Trust Funded Life of Breath Project. Previous publications include Literary Cynics: Borges, Beckett, Coetzee (Bloomsbury 2017) and, with Michael J. Kelly, Theories of History: History Read across the Humanities (Bloomsbury 2018).