Dr. Roderick Galam (POINT 2013-15)

Freie Universität Berlin

Institute of Anthropology

Center for Area Studies

Hittorfstr. 18
14195 Berlin

Roderick G. Galam is both a social scientist and a literary scholar. His sociological research focuses on how people, especially those coming from developing countries, are affected by and respond to social and economic developments particularly those linked to globalization, neoliberalization, and labor migration. He obtained a PhD in social science from Cardiff University where he wrote a doctoral thesis that examined the spatiotemporal dimensions of the subjectification of non-migrant Filipino women whose husbands worked in the global maritime industry. This subjectification was examined in the context of the long history of migration in the Ilocos Region, the place where the participants of the study came from, as well as in the contexts of international contract labor migration from the Philippines and the globalization and deregulation of the international shipping industry. As a literary scholar, he has written on gender, history, and nationalism in Philippine literature, and on the social memory of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. His book, The Promise of the Nation: Gender, History, and Nationalism in Contemporary Ilokano Literature (2008) was shortlisted for the 2009 Philippine National Book Award (Literary Studies category), one of the most prestigious academic and literary awards in the country.

Prior to his POINT Fellowship at Free University of Berlin, he was Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines and worked in research at the London-based Seafarers' Rights International, a center devoted to research on the protection of and advocacy for the rights of seafarers, and at the University of Southampton (UK).

Focus of Research

Precarious work; labor migration from the Philippines; seafarers; gender, subjectivity, and agency; consequences of migration on families and relationships; social memory and literature

Postdoctoral Research

Precarity and Biography: Filipino Seafarers Negotiating Job Insecurity in the Globalized Maritime Industry

Work is intimately linked to people’s identity and agency. It provides them with a means to realize aspirations and life goals, and to fulfil their responsibilities to other people. It helps define their social position and standing and provides a way by which people negotiate their present and future. Precarity erodes this link. What happens when work becomes a source of insecurity? How do workers negotiate their present and future when periods of employment are always followed by periods of unemployment and the threat of never being employed again is constant? Drawing on the literature on precarity in flexible capitalism and on social navigation, this project will examine how Filipino seafarers negotiate precarity and its consequences on their lives.

The ‘precariatization’ of seafarer employment that followed in the wake of the shipping industry’s globalization and neoliberlization has diminished seafarers’ capacity to plot their spatial, temporal, and socio-material locations and changed the conditions that frame their negotiation of their present and future. But questions about the relation between their precarious work and biography remain scarcely studied. Studies that have examined the precarious condition of workers in globalization and neoliberalization, and the consequences of this insecurity on the career prospects, trajectories, lives, and character of workers have focused mainly on those working in the financial, banking, or other service-oriented sectors of the economy. Very few have looked at the condition of seafarers. The few studies that have framed the situation of seafarers within the discourse of precarity have focused mainly on health and safety and have not explicitly examined how the lives of seafarers and the families who depend on them are affected by precarious employment, by how precarity reorganizes or destabilizes the material, social, and economic foundations of their identities and lives. This project seeks to address this lacuna by focusing on the case of Filipino seafarers who comprise almost 30 percent of all seafarers in the world.

Empirical research for this study will be conducted in Manila. The fieldwork includes interviews with seafarers, their wives, children, and other family members who depend on them; Philippine government officials; representatives of employment agencies (known in the shipping world as crewing agencies); and staff of non-government organizations focused on maritime industry issues. The research also includes conducting non-participant observations of pre-departure orientation programs for seafarers as well as an ethnographic study of Filipino seafarers looking for work at what has been called "the seafarers' market" in Manila.


Galam, Roderick. 2008. The Promise of the Nation: Gender, History, and Nationalism in Contemporary Ilokano Literature. Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University Press.  

Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Galam, Roderick. 2012. Communication and Filipino Seamen’s Wives: Imagined Communion and the Intimacy of Absence. Philippine Studies 60.2: 223-260.

Galam, Roderick. 2010. (En)Countering Martial Law: Rhythmanalysis, Urban Experience in Metro Manila, and Ilokano Literature (1980-1984). Philippine Studies 58.4: 481-522.

Galam, Roderick. 2008. Narrating the Dictator(ship): Social Memory, Marcos, and Ilokano Literature after the 1986 Revolution. Philippine Studies 56.2: 151-182.

Galam, Roderick. 2003a. ‘We Wanted Justice and Got the Rule of Law’: Literary Representations of the State, Social Justice and the Rule of Law. Philippine Law Journal 77.4: 476-507.

Galam, Roderick. 2003b. Gabriela Silang, the Alsa Masa of 1763, and the Struggle for a Filipino Nation. Philippine Humanities Review 6: 26-43.

Galam, Roderick. 2001. Defending a Place in the Nation: Gender, Class, and State Oppression in Gil-ayab ti Daga. Humanities Diliman 2.1: 69-105.

Galam, Roderick. 2000a. Re-membering Women into the Nation: Discourses of Gender, Nation, and Nationalism in the Poetry of Hermilinda Lingbaoan-Bulong. Kasarinlan: A Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 16.1: 31-70.

Galam, Roderick. 2000b. Re-membering Women into the Nation: The Poetry of Hermilinda Lingbaoan-Bulong. Diliman Review 48.4: 56-67.

Galam, Roderick. 2000c. The Southeast Asia Travelling Classroom 2000. Southeast Asian Studies Bulletin 2.2: 20-24, 27.  

Galam,Roderick. 2000d. Talinghaga, Lipunan at Kamalayang Panlipunan sa Panulaang Iloko, 1970-1987. [Metaphor, Society, and Social Consciousness in Iloko Poetry, 1970-1987]. Diliman Review 48.2: 58-73.