Mark B. Salter has announced a call for contributors for a materiality inspired collection on the International. Following the Millennium conference this year, this will be really timely.

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Thinking Inside the Box

Rachael Squire from Royal Holloway has written an excellent post on a paper presented by Alex Colas. She will take up a PhD position next year and I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work! To quote her last sentence, “Containers are a worthy protagonist of material analysis in international systems and there is much room in academic discourse for the full story of the container to unfold.”

Alex Colas from Birkbeck University presented a paper entitled: “Infrastructures of the world economy: Thinking inside the box” at this year’s Millennium Conference held at LSE.

Contributing to growing scholarship on shipping containers and containerisation (the work of William Walters for example), Colas sought in his paper to “make the shipping container the protagonist of material analysis in international systems”.

As Colas highlighted throughout his presentation, the humble shipping container has made an unparalleled contribution to the globalised world in which we live. With 90% of the world’s sea transport going through the container, the container itself has come to be a powerful and pervasive metaphor for globalisation and standardisation. This can be explored through many contexts – the transformation of ports, shifting labour geographies and the shipping process itself to name but a few.

Containerisation has certainly been a driving force behind the process of globalisation. However as Colas…

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Contained Mobility (Ursula Biemann, 2004)

I wanted to post this work by Ursula Biemann for a long time… Biemann, a video artist based in Zürich, Switzerland, addresses in this installation the relationality of (im)mobility. For her, the European Schengen area represents both the growing containment and enablement of movement (especially in the post-9/11 period). Thus, according to her own description, the project attempts to narrate the strategies, methods and techniques on both sides: on the one hand, it addresses practices of disciplining the movement of goods and people, on the other, it tries to get a grasp of the travelers and their ruses to achieve mobility and self-determination. The shipping container, as she explains, becomes then “a suitable symbol” for approaching these two seemingly separate domains: It “denotes a quality of confinement and enclosure while implying at the same time, a systematized worldwide mobility.”

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