As nodes in a greater network of accelerated flow and accumulation, port cities organize social life and urban space according to global, standardized logics that permit maximum profit. These are active sites characterized by a variety of instruments and mechanisms performed by the state and private actors. As junctures in space, these sites are critical for the study of contemporary capitalism.
The following readings illuminate on these instruments, systems, and infrastructures that facilitate logistics through the exploitation of land and labor. These include special economic zones, supply chains, and the governance of “nature” in order to optimize mobility. If we critically examine the logistic city, urban spaces mediated by these rational logics of flow, can we begin to speculate on alternative methods to rewire or disrupt the global architecture of trade to regain agency?
This list is inspired by our work on Port to Port, a nomadic curatorial research initiative founded in 2015. We are interested in the economic and political networks created by the trade and maritime industry and their effects on the built environment in global container port cities. Port to Port invites interdisciplinary practitioners to develop discourse, criticism, and investigative research and speculation on the future of port cities. The program uses contemporary art and sites to ground theories of planetary urbanization and contemporary capitalism. Port to Port is attached to no place, site, or institution, which allows its fluid nature, and invites collaboration and dialogue through exhibitions, residencies, and public programs. To date, we have collaborated with Centro Cultural de España Panama (Panama City), Bluecoat Contemporary Art Center (Liverpool), and SMU Pollock Gallery (Dallas).
[Image courtesy of Guillermo León Gómez.]
Zone: The Spatial Softwares of Extrastatecraft
Easterling’s conceptualization of the “zone” helps illuminate how infrastructures are processes that mediate relationships between actors and agents. We can begin to understand how territory and polity are expressed differently, not always in one fixed, geographic location but rather through infrastructure space.
Storage Flows: Logistics as Urban Choreography
Harvard Design Magazine
Generally, logistics as a concept is associated with movement and flow, understood as dynamic rather than situated. Lyster reminds us of the way logistics materializes and territorializes in spaces of storage throughout the city, from Amazon lockers to free zone warehousing and logistic centers.
Port Cities: Nodes in the Global Petroleumscape between Sea and Land
Cultures of Energy Podcast, episode #84
Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS)
In this podcast, Ashley Carse condenses his fantastic research from "Beyond the Big Ditch: Politics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal," on the history of the canal and its effects on ecological systems in Panama. While passing through the locks, each ship drains an astounding 52 million gallons of fresh water into the oceans, further highlighting how megaprojects of this scale will exhaust ecological resources.
Extraction, Logistics, Finance: Global Crisis and the Politics of Operation
Mezzadra and Neilson illuminate on the methods in which contemporary capitalism operates through extraction, logistics, and finance. Through the analysis of these interrelated forms, we can begin to look for counter-operations that resist dispossession and exploitation.
Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade
University of Minnesota Press
Cowen gives an amazing overview of the origins of military logistics, and how these same logics have now been co-opted by corporate actors today.
Supply Chains and the Human Condition
Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society
Logistics, Counterlogistics and the Communist Prospect
If we begin to comprehend that the logistics revolution has reorganized social cooperative systems, how do we begin to counter and find agency? Aside from sabotage or the blockading of flow, we can gear “ethical connections and movements,” such as facilitating the flow of information in censored spaces or assisting the flow of refugees across borders.