WIT Press

Reconstructing Maritime Women – A Discursive Understanding


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WIT Press


H. Hagmark-Cooper


This paper will show how prevailing discourses in society influence the way in which life stories are told. The empirical foundation of the paper is a body of qualitative oral and written testimonies of seventy-five seafarers’ wives from the Åland Isles, born between 1912 and 1969 and divided into three groups, so as to represent different generations of women. In my interpretation of the testimonies I have used discourse analysis and social constructionism. The examination of the relationship between reconstruction and discourse will make visible not only the extent to which social ideals feed into subjective identity, but also how common discourses are constructed and sustained through individual narratives. Furthermore, by looking at how the informants reconstructed their subjective experiences, we will learn how life story narratives are affected by the discourses available to the narrator, both at the time when events were experienced and when they were related. The informants’ experiences as seafarers’ wives will be set against the popular and established ideas of what being a maritime woman entails. Keywords: maritime women, family life, discourse analysis, seafarers’ wives. 1 Introduction Personal accounts draw upon existing discourses available in society, and these discourses, in turn, are influenced and maintained by subjective experiences. Some informants will create their experiences so as to fit the prevailing images of a seafarer’s wife’s attitudes and characteristics, whereas others will seek to distance themselves from the stereotype. Awareness of what the principal discourses communicate about seafarers’ wives in Åland is imperative, since these debates are the frame of reference for the informants’ reconstructions of


maritime women, family life, discourse analysis, seafarers’ wives.