Dr Penny Howard

A18 - Brennan MacCallum Building
The University of Sydney

Biographical details

Penny is an Honorary Associate in the Anthropology Department specializing in labour-centered analysis of human-environment and human-machine relations, contextualized in the market and class relations they are almost always embedded in. She is also the National Research Officer of the Maritime Union of Australia, which represents seafarers, wharfies and port workers in Australia.

Penny is the author of Environment, Labour, and Capitalism at Sea: ‘Working the ground’ in Scotland, an ethnographic monograph published in 2017 by University of Manchester Press. It includes original description and analysis of work organisation at sea, including the development of places at sea, navigation and orientation at sea, an innovative approach to understanding technologies and techniques, and an analysis of historical shifts in wages and class relations.

Penny completed her anthropology PhD in 2012 at the University of Aberdeen, and previously worked as skipper and crew on passenger vessels in the USA.

Research interests

Penny’s research has explored human-environment relations in relation to political economy, capitalism, and class. She is particularly interested in current debates about the ‘anthropocene’ and ‘capitalocene’ in relation to environmental crisis. She is also interested in theoretical and practical analyses of technology and particularly the automation of work processes and struggles over how work is organised. Penny aims to further develop her research in Australian ports to explore the dynamic relationship between class, power and technology. She has also written about the politics of occupational health and safety.

Penny also has a broad interest in human history and evolution, and the historical development of class societies.



Howard, Penny McCall. 2017. Environment, labour and capitalism at sea: ‘Working the ground’ in Scotland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Journal articles

Howard, Penny McCall. Forthcoming 2018. The anthropology of human-environment relations: Materialism with and without Marxism. Focaal- Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology.

Campling, Liam and Elizabeth Havice and Penny McCall Howard (equal authorship). 2012. The Political Economy and Ecology of Capture Fisheries: Market dynamics, resource access and relations of exploitation and resistance. Journal of Agrarian Change. 12(2-3): 177-203.

Howard, Penny McCall. 2012. Workplace cosmopolitanisation and 'the power and pain of class relations' at sea. Focaal- Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 62: 55-69.

Howard, Penny McCall. 2012.Sharing or appropriation? Analyzing share systems, class and commodity relations in Scottish fisheries. Journal of Agrarian Change. 12(2-3): 316-343.

Howard, Penny McCall. 2010. Working the Ground: Life and Death at Sea. Anthropology News. February 2010: 9-11.

Book chapters

Howard, Penny McCall. Forthcoming 2018. Working grounds, producing places and becoming at home at sea. In At Home on the Waves: Human habitation of the sea from the Mesolithic to today, eds. Tanya King and Gary Robinson. London: Berghahn Books

Howard, Penny McCall. 2016. What wrecks reveal: Structural violence in ecological systems. In The World and its Futures: Ecologies, ontologies, mythologies, eds. Jonathan Marshall and Linda Connor. London: Routledge.

Howard, Penny McCall. 2014. Occupational Health and Safety. In The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behaviour, and Society, eds. William Cockerham, Robert Dingwall, Stella Quah. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 1708–1712.

Howard, Penny McCall. 2013. Feeling the ground: Vibration, listening, sounding at sea. In On Listening, eds. Angus Carlyle and Cathy Lane. Devon: Uniformbooks, 61-66.

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