HM 2013: Circulation, Logistics, Infrastructure

The Historicam Materialism conference will take place from 26-28 April 2013 at New York University. There will be, amongst many other interesting panels, a panel on Circulation, Logistics and Infrastructure. The full programme can be found on https://sites.google.com/site/2013hmny/program.

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An interesting compilation on US military logistics in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Derek Gregory.

geographical imaginations

In recent years much attention has been focused on the logistics of supplying the war in Afghanistan.  But now the reverse operation is gearing up, and (as anticipated) it’s no more straightforward.  Here’s Nate Rawlings for TIME:

For many good reasons, Afghanistan has been called a logistician’s nightmare. It is landlocked and far from a working port. Much of the country – especially in the east where a great deal of the fighting has taken place – is covered with mountains and threaded by decades-old roads and questionable bridges. The easiest way in and out of the country is a geopolitical minefield and the other two routes are three times as expensive.

And yet, for twelve years, logisticians have supplied troops with the equipment — large and small — necessary to fight a war. They have airdropped pallets of food and repair parts on remote bases, tossed “Speedballs” —…

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Forgotten Spaces: Harvey, Buchloh and Sekula

Finally, I was able to get a copy of The Forgotten Space, a documentary film on containerization, directed by Allan Sekula and Noël Burch. Although I am really looking forward to seeing it, I didn’t make it, yet. Anyhow – here’s a good piece to get into the right mood. David Harvey and Benjamin Buchloh comment on the film and discuss with one of the directors, Allan Sekula. Especially the first couple of minutes are really interesting. Harvey speaks of containerization as “one of the great innovations without which we would not have had globalization, the deindustrialization of America and all the other things that have been going on.” Considering technology, Harvey digs out a passage from Marx’s Capital on the relation of man to nature and discusses it in regard to The Forgotten Space:

“Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life, and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and of the mental conceptions that flow from those relations” *

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This sounds good!

Experimental Geography in Practice

The Politics and Matter Research Group I am part of at the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol is hosting a workshop Tuesday 18th – Wednesday 19th December 2012 on the theme of Politics and Matter.

The two-day event is open to the public and will be held at the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol. We would like to invite researchers to attend the workshop, and to use the space to explore emerging problematics and dynamics pertaining to their own work and interests.

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In the wake of recent ‘new materialist’ debates there has been an upsurge of interest within the social sciences around the themes of vital materiality, nonhuman agency, and the subsequent questioning of political action and responsibility that these matters present (Bennett 2010; Coole and Frost 2010; Braun and Whatmore 2010). Invited speakers will demonstrate their recent contribution to these theoretical…

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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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Viapolitics: Vehicles of Migration

William Walters held a talk on Migration, Transportation and Politics at York University’s Critical Border Studies Speaker Series in November 2011. Walters introduces the term Viapolitics (“via” is the Latin name for a Roman road) and uses it to approach the vehicular as a “contested visual field”, as well as a form of “mobile governmentality” which polices transport routes. Thus, he understands borders as “dynamic interactions” and “surfaces” sourrounding the vehicles of transportation itself. With thanks to Simon Sontowski for kindly drawing my attention to this talk! Continue reading