Spectres of Colonial Pasts Haunting Logistical Landscapes
Friday, October 9, 2015
University College Room 179
The sublime aesthetics –the awe and terror– of logistical landscapes often conjure up an irrevocable rupture from the past, heralding something new, as yet unseen, as a kind of threshold of transformation in the character of capitalism. Although, of course, technological innovations and the adaptability of capitalism to its particular contexts have been crucial to the shape of logistics, shipping, and their infrastructures, nevertheless these logistical landscapes, both at land and at sea, are haunted by their, by our, colonial pasts.
In this lecture, I will reflect on these hauntings through a consideration of the emergence and decline of ports and maritime transport infrastructures in the Arabian Peninsula since the end of the Second World War. Although today’s megaships, supply chain logistics, and the electronic and industrial apparatuses and processes that animate them, seem like a far cry from the commodity and slave ships of old, much about that past still shapes, constrains, and influences today’s logistics. Whether it is route-making and enduring trans-oceanic connections of labour and trade and war, or it is the geography of ports and inland transportation crossroads and hubs, today’s transportation sector echoes colonial pasts. Perhaps most significant parallels, however, are the corporate forms that contain logistics in their myriad forms and the violence that lubricates the functioning of these corporate forms. Here, neoliberalism is perhaps most clearly haunted by the ghosts of our colonial pasts.
Laleh Khalili is a professor of Middle East politics at SOAS, University of London, and the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine (2007) and Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (2013).
Professor Khalili’s visit is co-sponsored by The Centre for the Study of the United States, Women and Gender Studies Institute, Canadian Studies, and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations.