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Schiffe im Hafen von oben fotografiertBild: thitivong
  • Vortrag

Montagskolloquium Sommersemester 2024

Shipbreaking Yards in India

Ayushi Dhawan (Azim Premji University, Bhopal):

“Many Lives of Obsolete Ships, Waste, Labor, and Livelihoods at Shipbreaking Yards in India.”

Zoom conference link: https://zoom.us/j/91255064760?pwd=TlRpeXZPaWVMbGx3Q2tTSi9SU2dZUT09

Ayushi Dhawan (Azim Premji University, Bhopal):

“Many Lives of Obsolete Ships, Waste, Labor, and Livelihoods at Shipbreaking Yards in India.”


In this talk, I will explore how from 1998 onwards, obsolete seafaring vessels increasingly symbolized toxic waste in disguise and became a springboard for environmental media campaigns globally. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the materials used in ships during their construction included asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and tributyltin (TBT), and each of these materials served a specific purpose. I will chronologically narrate and examine the lobbying attempts of two non-governmental organizations, Greenpeace International and Basel Action Network (BAN), in their collaborative global campaign against dirty shipbreaking practices from 1998 to 2006. They argued that hazardous materials remained in disguise onboard obsolete vessels, resulting in the transboundary movement of waste when the vessels reached the yards for scrapping in South and Southeast Asian countries. They were concerned about how these hazardous materials were later handled by ill-equipped workers during the scrapping process and impacted their environment. This talk will unravel the successes and failures of the shipbreaking campaign that lasted for 8 years. Through a close reading of untapped archival materials from the Greenpeace archives, multiple life-to-death journeys of ships, photographs, and ethnographic research in Alang shipbreaking yards, Gujarat, India the author suggests that the mobile nature of ships and their complicated inbuilt composition frustrated the attempts of environmental activists, ship owners, and shipbreakers to regulate the shipping and shipbreaking industry in the 1990s and early 2000s.


Ayushi Dhawan is an environmental historian with particular interests in the movement of hazardous waste trade from the Global North to the Global South, scrap recycling, environmental justice, and activism. She has completed her BA (Hons) and MA in History from the University of Delhi, followed by a Research Masters from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, and a PhD in Environmental Humanities from Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany. She teaches history at Azim Premji University, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Before joining the University, she was pursuing her PhD and was part of a research group Hazardous Travels. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy funded by the German Research Foundation. Her doctoral research is an innovative re-telling of the Alang shipbreaking yards in Gujarat, India and by adopting a perspective of the Global South it provides a more nuanced and complex account of the transnational project of shipbreaking that goes beyond reducing workers at the yards to passive victims of environmental injustice. She is currently researching the evolution of environmental activism in India from the 1980s onwards and how meanings and perceptions of environmentalism changed over time.


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