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Title: Water ways : becoming an itinerant boat-dweller on the canals and rivers of South East England
Author: Bowles, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 6085
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis draws from data collected over thirteen months of fieldwork working with “Boaters”, a boat-dwelling itinerant group on the waterways of Southern England. In the first of three parts, the thesis focusses on the individual motivations (economic, personal and political) behind becoming a travelling Boater, and on how one acquires the requisite skills and knowledge to become part of a community of practice on the waterways. Boaters on the whole do not have a sense of being an ethnically distinct group and, as such, this thesis interrogates what kind of an identity is being created or reinforced when individuals recognise themselves as Boaters. This part further deals with the specific temporal experience of boating (commonly known as “boat time”) that creates a shared experiential pattern between Boaters, and also examines the informal networks of trade, exchange and barter which enmesh Boaters in a web of reciprocal relationships. In the subsequent part, the focus of the thesis widens to take in the boating “community” as it is imagined. It asks how the concept of community is rhetorically constructed and corporately enacted on the inland waterways and identifies the creation of an emic and local conception of community. In the third part, the focus widens further still in order to interrogate the troubled relationships between Boaters and sedentary populations and between Boaters and agents of the State. By looking at Boaters’ different (essentially nomadic) understandings of locality and political organisation, this thesis attempts to more broadly explain the fraught relationship between state agencies and itinerant populations. The thesis concludes that the community of Boaters is constructed through the shared understandings which emerge due to the Boaters experiencing much of their world as being flexible, fluid and unfixed. Boaters are bound by acts of dwelling together on the waterways, acts that emerge from the specific material conditions of boat life, and further from acts of support where Boaters bind together for the security of the group against antagonistic outsiders and the interventions of agencies of the state.
Supervisor: Froerer, P. Sponsor: Brunel School of Social Sciences ; Royal Anthropological Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Boaters ; Travellers ; Rivers ; State ; Communities