Cruising the Baltic Sea: Nation, Gender and Sexuality in pleasure-based ferry traffic between Finland, Åland and Sweden

Field: Gender Studies, Economic History, Political History
Project leader: Katarina Mattsson
Starting year: 2023
Project type: Project
Total funding: SEK 5,990,000

With a focus on pleasure travel and consumption this project contributes with a unique perspective on the Baltic Sea, as something more than just an ocean. The project explores the intersections of nation, gender and sexuality in pleasure-based ferry traffic between Finland, Sweden and Åland, in the changing geopolitical context from the post-war period until today. The questions asked are: How have notions of nation, gender and sexuality been negotiated in the marketing of the ferry traffic and its destinations, as well as in the organization of the cruise experience? How have these notions interacted with notions of social class, race/whiteness, modernity and borders between East and West?

The project is conducted through a multi-disciplinary approach, primarily using archival sources, ephemera collections, written reminiscences and ethnographic materials. The research questions are answered through three sub-studies focusing on (i) the historical marketing of ferry cruises and gendered and sexualized images of cruises and destinations, (ii) the cruise ferries as a transnational space for cruising and sexual encounters, with a particular focus on gendered and sexualized desires for the other and (iii) contemporary trends and the gendered and sexualized segmentation of the ferry market. The project will advance the understanding of how the Northern Baltic Sea has emerged as a transborder space for pleasure travel, entertainment and consumption.