Events

Mobility: peoples, things, words

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21 March 2019

Time: 6:30 - 8:00pm
Venue: Arts One Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London, E1 4NS

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Organised by Queen Mary Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IHSS) and Queen Mary University of London Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholars (QMUL-LTDS) programme this speaker series focuses on mobility not only as a geographic or historical movement but also social, political and cultural circulation of peoples, things and words.

by School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR)

 

Tankers, Tycoons, and the Making of Modern Regimes of Law, Labour, and Finance

Laleh Khalili, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS University of London

Excellent recent research on the politics of containerisation and the logic of logistics (Levinson; Cowen; Sekula) has shown the transformations these new modalities of disciplining trade have wrought not only on the circulation of goods but also the processes of production, since the 1950s when containers were invented, and especially after the 1960s, when their usage was normalised during the Vietnam war. However, many of the practices we now associate with containerisation – foremost among them the automation of processes of maritime circulation, and the transformation of urban landscapes around the ports – go back at least two decades before the 1950s, to the legal, engineering, and financial innovations around petroleum tankers. By focusing on the tanker terminals of the Arabian Peninsula since the 1930s and the subsequent burgeoning of tanker-ships plying the trade between the Peninsula and the rest of the world, I will illuminate the radical transformations the particularities' of tanker trade has wrought. This includes early instances of automated workplaces; terminals far enough from port-city centres to isolate them from public scrutiny; and disciplining of workers aboard tanker-ships. Further, the shift in ownership structures and financing of tanker trades over the last one-hundred years either foreshadows or dramatically illuminates the transformations in financial capital itself. Finally, much of lex petrolea, the legal and arbitral corpus that sets the parameter of extraction and circulation of oil, itself provides the ground on which late capitalist legal property regimes are founded.

Laleh Khalili is Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS University of London. Her first book, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration(Cambridge 2007) drew on ethnographic research in the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajna in Lebanon and focussed on the particular genres of commemoration – from the heroic practices of the heady days of Third Worldism to the tragic discourses of an era in which NGOs are ascendant. She also edited Modern Arab Politics (Routledge 2008) and co-edited (with Jillian Schwedler) Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion (Hurst/OUP 2010). Her most recent book, Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford 2013), drew on interviews with former detainees of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and various Israeli detention camps and prisons – and military officers, guards, and interrogators, as well as a large number of archival sources to show the continuities in practices of detention in liberal counterinsurgencies from the Boer War until today. Her Time in the Shadows was the winner of the Susan Strange Best Book Prize of the British International Studies Association and the 2014 best book award of the International Political Sociology section of the ISA.

The event will be followed by a drinks reception to which all are invited.