Nicky Gregson will be coming to speak in the Modern Design History Seminar Wednesday, December 8, 2010, on “Souvenir Salvage and the Death of Great Naval Ships.”

Nicky Gregson received her BA and PhD in Geography from Durham University. She has taught at the University of Exeter, the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and for the Open University, and is currently the Personal Chair in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield, where she has taught since 1990. Gregson is also the Director of an Economic and Social Research Council funded project, The Waste of the World, a five-year research program bringing together researchers in geography, anthropology and materials science from the University of Sheffield, Durham University, University College London, Goldsmiths College London, and researchers in South Asia, to study the global impact and approach to waste.

Gregson has published three books: Living with Things: Ridding, Accommodation, Dwelling (2007); Second-Hand Cultures, with Louise Crewe (2003); Servicing the Middle Classes: Class, Gender and Waged Domestic Labour in Contemporary Britain, with Michelle Lowe (1994); and collaborated on Feminist Geographies: Explorations in Diversity and Difference (1997).

Gregson’s talk is entitled “Souvenir Salvage and the Death of Great Naval Ships.” This talk examines the social and physical death of naval ships as a form of military material culture. It draws on ethnographic research with veterans’ associations in the UK and US, and in a UK ship breaking yard, to explore the relationship of a naval ship’s social and physical death to memorialisation, souvenir manufacture and souvenir salvage. For ex-navy personnel, it is normative to memorialize a naval ship through a range of manufactured souvenirs worn in everyday life. The social death of naval ships has, until recently, been largely disconnected from the sites of their physical death, or destruction, but the advent of ethical disposal policies in the UK has brought about the geographical compression of the two. The talk charts three phases of ex-naval personnel’s engagement with the destruction of “their ships”: pilgrimage, souvenir salvage and collective memorialization. Gregson argues that proximate visualized destruction makes ex-naval personnel witnesses to an object’s death and that resource recovery regimes should not only be considered recycling of materials but also their reincarnation.

Please join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a reception before the talk.