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Relational aesthetics and emotional relations: Leadership on board merchant marine ships

Gharibyan-Kefalloniti, N. (2008). Relational aesthetics and emotional relations: Leadership on board merchant marine ships. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This study discusses research in an environment which is not widely associated with either aesthetics or emotion. Life on board a merchant marine ship is completely unknown to most people. It is thought of as a very closed, tough, male environment, where a number of people are more or less imprisoned in a steel cage floating in the sea. Few outsiders have any concept of what they actually do on board ship, but they assume the experience must be too painful to dwell on; it must be one of those jobs that people do in order to amass cash with which to enjoy themselves between tours of duty.

This research has involved seventeen interviews with captains, first officers, chief engineers, seamen and seascape painter. My original purpose was to look at leadership on board ships, but my early findings showed that the leadership relationships on board merchant marine ships involved the open expression of much emotion, and were very often full of aesthetic appreciation of both the sea and the ship. I also interviewed a professional seascape painter, in order to be able to compare his take on the aesthetics and emotions of the sea with those of my seafarers. In this research I examine two themes which came strongly from my interviews; relational aesthetics and emotional relations.

This interpretive study on leadership and aesthetics illustrates that in most of our everyday practical activities we rely on our senses and develop intuitions we can trust. When important issues arise, regardless of what others may say, our own senses and intuitions are our best guides for action.

Aesthetic knowledge gained by seamen through practical judgments becomes most critical at sea. In order to give meaning to their lives and work, people need to have 'real' relationships: love with pathos, feelings of responsibility for their fellows. The relationships they build at sea are works of art, created through human interaction, within which conversation becomes both more poetic and more 'real'.

Art and poetry transcend rationality and objectivity and put us in touch with the more important reality of our feelings and intuitions. We gain this awareness through imagination rather than reason. The language of the imagination, especially metaphor, is necessary for expressing the unique and most personally significant aspects of our experience.

Those who exercise leadership on merchant marine ships have strong views on the importance of understanding aesthetics and emotions through phronesis and the knowledge they gain becomes crucial in discharging their responsibilities, and this was born out strongly in my interviews.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Departments: Bayes Business School
Doctoral Theses
Bayes Business School > Bayes Business School Doctoral Theses
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