The Dissonance of Things #6: Logistics – Violence, Empire and Resistance

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Source: Marcus Lyon

This May, The Dissonance of Things switches out British accents for those of the vaguely North American variety, as I serve as host for our sixth podcast on the topic of logistics and its role in the making of military, capitalist, and imperial relations. I’m joined by our very own Laleh Khalili of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the wonderful Deborah Cowen of the University of Toronto. Together, we take a look at the increasing ubiquity and prominence of logistics as a mode for organizing social and spatial life. We discuss how this seemingly banal concern with the movement of goods is actually foundational to contemporary global capitalism and imperialism, reshaping patterns of inequality, undermining labor power, and transforming strategies of governance. We also ask: what might a counter-logistical project look like? What role does logistics play in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist struggles across the globe?

Listen via iTunes or through the Soundcloud player below.

As always, listen, enjoy, argue, share, and leave us your thoughts below the line. You can also follow our past and future casts on soundcloud.

 

Further reading:
– Deborah Cowen’s The Deadly Life of Logistics
– Laleh’s blog on maritime logistics, The Gamming

The Slow Boat to China

The following post is the first in a series of oceanic dispatches from Disorder member Charmaine Chua. She is currently on a 46-day journey on board a 100,000 ton Evergreen container ship starting in Los Angeles, going across the Pacific Ocean and ending in Taipei. Follow her ethnographic adventures with the tag ‘Slow Boat to China’.


“In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.”

– Foucault, Of Other Spaces

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Source: Author

There is uncanny beauty in the monstrous. This, at least, is the feeling that seizes me as I stand under the colossal Ever Cthulhu[1] berthed in the Port of Los Angeles. The ship’s hull alone rises eight stories into the air; even from a distance, I am unable to capture its full length or height within a single camera frame. In describing the ship to my friends and my family, I have sought to make adequate comparisons between its size and more familiar objects: The Ever Cthulhu is 333 meters (1,100 ft) long, 43 meters (141 ft) across, and 70 meters (230 ft) high. It is taller than an eighteen-story building, the Arc De Triomphe, or Niagara Falls. It as long as a line of seventy cars, the Eiffel Tower tipped on its side, two Roman Colosseums, four New York City blocks, or six and half White Houses. I’ve had a lot of practice picturing this ship. Even so, when I am finally at the foot of its immense mass, I can scarcely believe that this monstrosity will be my home for the next 36 days.

I have entered the port’s gateway with very little fuss. As a Singaporean who has lived in the US for the last ten years, I am well acquainted with long lines, laborious checkpoints, and stern homeland security agents who scrutinize my passport with wary questions. This time, I banter with two female security guards at the Evergreen terminal in the port of Los Angeles whose only suspicion is why anyone would want to take the journey I’m on, and board a shuttle bus that drives down a lane flanked by multi-colored containers stacked four high and scores deep, forming long passages along which trucks and cranes stop to pick up their loads. We pass forklifts, spreaders, and trucks with empty chassis, which sweep past in well-oiled synchrony. Less than a 2-minute drive later, I am deposited at the foot of the ship, and I still haven’t shown anyone a passport. Staring up at the vessel, feeling dwarfed by the legs of the gantry cranes that loom far above us, I am directed to a steep and narrow metal gangway ascending seven stories to the deck – the only connection between the ship and land – which shakes and bounces as I drag my suitcase up its 59 steps.

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