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Making Things International 1

Making Things International 1: Circuits and Motion

Mark B. Salter Editor
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Making Things International 1
    Book Description:

    Building on recent debates in critical social theory and international relations,Making Things International I: Circuits and Motionpresents twenty-five essays that engage the global, the local, and the international through the lens of objects. It represents the first substantial new materialist intervention in global politics and international relations, offering a diverse and provocative set of reflections on how different objects create, sustain, complicate, and trouble the international.

    Problematizing the stuff of global life, Making Things International focuses on contemporary materialist scholarship on the international realm. The first of two volumes, these original contributions by both new and established scholars examine how war, diplomacy, trade, communication, and mobile populations are made by things: weapons, vehicles, shipping containers, commodities, passports, and more. The authors demonstrate how mundane, everyday objects-not normally understood as international-are in fact deeply implicated in how we think of the world: blood, garbage, viruses, traffic lights, clocks, memes, and ships' ballast.

    Contributors: Michele Acuto, U College London; Peter Adey, Royal Holloway U of London; Rune Saugmann Andersen, U of Helsinki; Jessica Auchter, U of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Mike Bourne, Queen's U Belfast; Kathleen P. J. Brennan; Elizabeth Cobbett, U of East Anglia; Stefanie Fishel, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Emily Gilbert, U of Toronto; Jairus Grove, U of Hawai'i at Manoa; Charlie Hailey, U of Florida; John Law, Open U; Wen-yuan Lin, National Tsing-hua U; Oded Löwenheim, Hebrew U of Jerusalem; Chris Methmann; Benjamin J. Muller, U of Western Ontario; Can E. Mutlu, Bilkent U; Geneviève Piché; Joseph Pugliese, Macquarie U; Katherine Reese; Michael J. Shapiro, U of Hawai'i at Manoa; Benjamin Stephan; Daniel Vanderlip; William Walters, Carleton U; Melissa Autumn White, U of British Columbia; Lauren Wilcox, U of Cambridge; Yvgeny Yanovsky.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4450-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Circuits and Motion
    (pp. vii-xxii)
    Mark B. Salter

    The international, the globe, the world is made up of things, of stuff, of objects, and not simply of humans and their ideas. Our collection looks at how the international is assembled by the enrollment of objects, humans, and ideas. Things play a crucial role in the assemblage of the international. Borders are made with fences, maps, compasses, passports, guards, and gates. War is made with guns, cell phones, improvised explosive devices, helmets, depleted uranium, aircraft, satellites, electricity, meals ready to eat, and oil. Diplomacy is made by telegrams, the Internet, diplomatic pouches, chicken dinners, and cameras. The international economy...

  4. Part I. World in Motion

    • Electronic Passports
      (pp. 3-17)
      William Walters and Daniel Vanderlip

      “An identity theft wet dream!” According to Barry Steinhardt, director of the Freedom and Technology Program of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this was the damning verdict on the new, technologically enhanced passport that the U.S. government was rolling out. Steinhardt was speaking on a panel at the fifteenth Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference in Seattle in 2005. His fellow panelists included the security technology expert Bruce Schneier and the then deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services, Frank Moss.¹

      The representative from the State Department had already spoken, championing the new electronic passport.² Among the major claims...

    • Passport Photos
      (pp. 18-35)
      Mark B. Salter

      The passport is a key artifact in the global mobility assemblage, understood as thedispositifof population in circulation. In addition to the more traditional story of a legal-sociopolitical regime that is based on domestic laws concerning citizenship, mobility, and immigration,¹ international standards about identity documentation and travel and frontier formalities, and a set of beliefs and behaviors about mobility—supplemented by a refugee regime that tidies up the loose ends of those excluded from the nation-state system²—this new materialist story includes the role of the physical infrastructure and objects of that regime. Following the work of Mika Aaltola,...

    • The Traffic Light
      (pp. 36-48)
      Katherine Reese

      From the first highways, which extended the reach of emperors and kings to the hinterlands, to contemporary national motorway systems, the road has long acted to order space into particular frameworks of authority. However, the twentieth century saw the traffic light subtly help to transform the road into a well-ordered and internationally legible space. In the everyday lives of the world’s city dwellers, the traffic light has come to act as a powerful but sometimes unnoticed technology of control. It regulates automobility—both in the narrow sense of the word, as movement in automobiles, as well as more broadly, in...

    • AVATAR
      (pp. 49-61)
      Benjamin J. Muller

      A time will not come, but is in fact already here, when travelers will confront a machine and not a human when crossing the border. Questions about one’s luggage, destination, and reasons for travel are delivered by a relatively sleek but nonetheless inhuman machine. An artificial-intelligence kiosk developed, as its developers euphemistically suggest, to provide “a noninvasive credibility assessment,” the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time, or AVATAR, is already undergoing field testing on two continents. As a result of both the complex global interconnections necessary to this technology’s material evolution, the policy and alleged practical reasons...

    • Containers
      (pp. 62-71)
      Can E. Mutlu

      Containers are everywhere. They are stacked on top of each other in ports around the world, used as (temporary) accommodation in American military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, and recycled to make up a shed in my university’s community-gardening center. The intermodal shipping container, or simply container, which is how I will refer to it in this chapter, is a standardized, reusable steel box that ensures safe transportation of cargo freight. The container is designed for efficient and safe shipment of freight across multiple modes of transportation: trucks, trains, and ships. Containers come in different sizes, ranging from the most...

    • Bicycle
      (pp. 72-84)
      Oded Löwenheim

      “How much did this bicycle cost you?” the Palestinian worker asks me, in Hebrew. We are standing on a trail in the Luz (Hebrew: “almond”) Wadi (Arabic: “valley,” “dry riverbed”), on the outskirts of Jewish Jerusalem. I am on my way to Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus on my mountain bike, riding from Mevasseret Zion (Hebrew: “the herald of Zion”), my town—a suburb of Jewish Jerusalem—to the university in the capital city. I ride not on the main road but on dirt trails and in wadis, in order to avoid the violence of motorized traffic. I know that...

    • Boats
      (pp. 85-97)
      Geneviève Piché

      Boats have been integral objects in making possible the international, crucial to the very possibility of intercontinental travel, the development of modern cartography, and international trade. Following the materialist turn influenced by the work of Bruno Latour and others, this chapter explores how vessels in maritime-migration incidents are international political objects informing the representations and practices that shape these incidents. Boats make possible the international by permitting a level of autonomy of movement to groups and individuals who would otherwise not be available to them, which highlights the limits of the international refugee regime and state immigration controls. I consider...

    • Ballast
      (pp. 98-112)
      Charlie Hailey

      Joseph Conrad often weighed in on ballast. This material, intended to stabilize ships, stirred the sailor-author’s maritime narratives. Like the sea itself, ballast could delay journeys, vex captains, hide treasure, ruin profit, and destroy the vessels it helped balance. One of Conrad’s early autobiographical stories tells how storm-flung ballast nearly sank his ship and postponed departure for Bangkok by more than a month. Ballast shifted leeward, and the imbalance left the vessel “tossing about like mad on her side.”¹ All hands descended below deck to shovel sand windward to right their ship. Ballast binds its characters’ fate: what material, other...

  5. Part II. Bodies in Motion

    • Symptoms
      (pp. 115-128)
      John Law and Wen-yuan Lin

      What does it mean to be international? What if the way things are international could have been different? Can we imagine other modes of international? These are our questions.

      Let’s start by thinking counterfactually. Here’s one of the great “what-ifs” of history: What if the Chinese had dominated the world from the fifteenth century onward? This might have happened; indeed, it almost did. In 1400, Ming dynastic China was in expansive mode. A huge expedition sailed from China in 1405. Its 317 vessels and 28,000 crew members were commanded by Zheng He (zhèng hé, 郑和). (Compare and contrast the “voyages...

    • Corpses
      (pp. 129-140)
      Jessica Auchter

      The primary objects of study of international relations (IR), namely, conflict and war, produce dead bodies en masse, yet the corpse itself has remained outside IR’s purview. International relations then, is literally built on the backs of dead bodies, yet fails to examine dead bodies in their complex potential. This lack of attention to conceptualizing dead bodies in a framework of the international leads to a skewed perception of the fundamental problems of international relations. In short, analysis of world politics shied away from considering the thing as a political entity, but it also suffers from a vitalist bias: a...

    • Virus
      (pp. 141-155)
      Melissa Autumn White

      Virality has become a dominant metaphor in the contemporary moment, one that is marked, in Jan van Dijk’s terms, by “too much connectivity.”¹ It is perhaps, then, no surprise that the virus, an infectious agent that remained unidentified until the invention of the electronic microscope, in the 1930s, has conceptually leaped across genres, from the material realm of the biological to the virtual realm of the digital, drawing attention to the precarious binary drawn between “natural” and “artificial” life. No matter the medium, the virus overwhelmingly signifies a bit of bad news, whether wrapped in the passing drag of a...

    • Microbes
      (pp. 156-170)
      Stefanie Fishel

      International relations (IR) is decidedly anthropocentric, with a focus on human institutions and structures. The state, levels of analysis, and the individual as a rational, unitary actor figure prominently in IR discourse and practice. Be it ideational, a priori, or natural, the state is taken as the primary agent in international relations. Sovereignty—and political agency—is expressed both through the state as a territorially bounded unit and through men and (sometimes) women as self-limiting, self-understanding, self-conscious, and self-representing subjects.¹

      What if this anthropocentric focus is a misleading account of human subjectivity? What if humans are not as limited, rational,...

    • Breathless
      (pp. 171-183)
      Peter Adey

      It is an old assertion, but might politics be, in fact, atmospheric? Might the political be held in the atmospheres that suspend our lives with oxygenated air? Could we find politics in the air that gives us breath and moves us with the primal animation toward expression and the giving of voice? This chapter aims to address what we might call the political atmospheres of breath. It focuses on when breath is shortened, concentrating on when atmosphere is made difficult to live through or survive.¹ The breath splutters or falters.

      Let us note that notions of atmosphere have received something...

    • Blood
      (pp. 184-200)
      Jairus Grove

      Blood may seem like either an obvious or a peculiar character for a book about things in international relations (IR). IR’s geopolitical tradition marched through the Rhineland of the nineteenth century, tracking blood and soil through the circuitous pathways of geographers such as Alexander von Humboldt and nationalist historians such as Leopold von Ranke until their triumphant unification in Schmitt’s triad of land, state, and people. Blood as identity and national or tribal continuity draws lines of enmity that constitute the political of international politics. Blood is a major player in the nation-state and in the world of nation-states and...

    • Bodies
      (pp. 201-211)
      Lauren Wilcox

      Over the past decade, the use of drones to target and kill suspected terrorists, insurgents, and, incidentally, thousands of civilians by the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel (many other states are acquiring the technological capacities) has resulted in debates over the politics and ethics of robotic warfare. Drone warfare as an artifact of the international is discussed elsewhere in this volume; in this chapter, I discuss drone warfare as an exemplar of how human bodies are made international. This approach may seem counterintuitive to many, as the use of sophisticated technological systems to launch weapons at suspected terrorists or...

    • Tanks
      (pp. 212-221)
      Michael J. Shapiro

      In this chapter, I analyze tanks as objects that have been most familiar as rolling weaponized steel behemoths, killing machines that became the major land-based strategic devices in industrialized warfare. Like many military vehicles—for example, amphibious sea–land craft, which dissolved the boundary between the sea and the land—the tank changed the spatiality of warfare. It was a weapon that “broke over the static geography of trench warfare with all the force of a freakish sea crashing over land.”¹ However, there are many other ways to read the tank-as-object. For example, since its invention as a military device...

    • Drones
      (pp. 222-240)
      Joseph Pugliese

      When theWashington Postbroke the story in 2012 that the “Obama administration ha[d] been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix,’”¹ there was barely a raised eyebrow, as this latest development was largely consumed as just another aspect of the inexorable ascendency of drones and their institutionalization within the United States’ military arsenal. The disposition matrix is a massive database that expands the United States’ interventionist role in the international arena well beyond the current drone kill lists managed by the U.S. government, the military, and the CIA. In this...

  6. Part III. Things in Motion

    • MemeLife
      (pp. 243-254)
      Kathleen P. J. Brennan

      In his 2005 novelPattern Recognition, William Gibson explores the phenomenon of memes spread on the Internet through the eyes of his protagonist, Cayce Pollard. In the book, the meme in question is an ever-expanding body of film clips that come to be known simply as “the footage.”¹ On her own time, Cayce becomes curious about the footage after being randomly exposed to a film clip on the street and then finding an online forum, “Fetish: Footage: Forum” (F:F:F), filled with people interested in the footage: “The forum has become one of the most consistent places in her life, like...

    • Videos
      (pp. 255-265)
      Rune Saugmann Andersen

      Two decades ago, Michael J. Shapiro saw the first signs that international politics would take new forms in a new video age that would place spectators in the position of referees vis-à-vis international conflicts.¹ Yet the way in which developments related to video technology interact with the international (rather than the social as such) remains largely unexplored, at least beyond introductory references to increasingly global camera omnipresence in analyses of surveillance.² Video is described as a part of the larger communications environment in Ron Deibert’s excellent study of media convergence and world order, is implicated in James Der Derian’s work...

    • Garbage
      (pp. 266-281)
      Michele Acuto

      Garbage is one of the most pervasive elements of our society. The world currently generates about four billion tons of waste per year, sustaining a $433 billion industry that discards, transforms, and moves garbage across cities, states, and continents. Waste management might account for as high as 6 percent of employment globally, and it has been proved to have a substantial impact on climate change both via greenhouse-gas (GhG) emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO₂), and by influencing the near-term production of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane and black carbon. A long-lived feature of civilization, garbage is now, more...

    • Carbon
      (pp. 282-297)
      Chris Methmann and Benjamin Stephan

      Climate politics is obsessed with carbon. We disclose and offset carbon, we try to capture and store it, we strive to become carbon-neutral, we trade it and we tax it. We calculate the carbon contained in trees and peatlands, we label the carbon that goes into producing our food. Business elites gather in the Carbon War Room. Everyone has a carbon footprint. A huge and globalized scientific, political, economic, and social apparatus, a vast machine seeks to administer carbon on a global, regional, national, local, and individual scale.¹ Carbon has become the thing in climate politics. It is the currency...

    • Currency
      (pp. 298-310)
      Emily Gilbert

      The Occupy George initiative in the United States, which is an offshoot of the broader Occupy movement, has been distributing banknotes stamped with bold red infographics that draw attention to economic disparities in U.S. society. The red overprinting on the one-dollar note in the following figure, for example, graphically illustrates that the four hundred wealthiest Americans hold as much wealth as the bottom half of the country. One of the most iconic symbols of the United States, and of its wealth, the dollar bill, is being used to undermine this very status. These overprinted notes are circulated at Occupy events...

    • Biometric MasterCard
      (pp. 311-327)
      Elizabeth Cobbett

      South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) government has called on MasterCard, a global payments network, to distribute the country’s welfare benefits through the use of a biometric debit card. As a technology company in the payments industry, MasterCard facilitates the movement of money and transactions between millions of consumers and merchants.¹ Its cutting-edge technologies are now being applied in South Africa through a new biometric debit card, endorsed by MasterCard and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). SASSA is responsible for the management and distribution of the country’s social grants. At present, nearly 16 million South Africans receive social...

    • Cocaine
      (pp. 328-347)
      Mike Bourne

      As a psychoactive substance, cocaine is already recognized as active rather than passive material. But this action is entangled in a constantly forming and reforming, dissolving and escaping assemblage of relations in which agency is attributable not to chemicals or people (traffickers, addicts, smugglers, policy makers) but to their intra-active coconstitution. In this way, cocaine is active and acted upon beyond its psychoactive properties in ways neglected by anthropocentric politics and theorizing. Cocaine is many things as it moves, and it is never only cocaine. Cocaine is a potential ally in the development of new materialism in international relations (IR)....

    • Clocks
      (pp. 348-363)
      Yvgeny Yanovsky

      On November 11, 1918, at 4:50 a.m., the warring sides of the Great War signed the armistice agreement that was supposed to bring the fighting to an end. The terms stipulated that an armistice should commence exactly at 11:00 a.m. that day.¹ The news about the agreement was transmitted from the Eiffel Tower to all combatants on the field, and orders of this matter were delivered to all the links in the command chain. In fact, most of the soldiers on both sides were aware that they were supposed to stop fighting at 11:00 exactly. But what was unclear is...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 364-364)
  8. Contributors
    (pp. 365-369)