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The Deadly Life of Logistics

The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade

Deborah Cowen
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Deadly Life of Logistics
    Book Description:

    In a world in which global trade is at risk, where warehouses and airports, shipping lanes and seaports try to guard against the likes of Al Qaeda and Somali pirates, and natural disaster can disrupt the flow of goods, even our "stuff" has a political life. The high stakes of logistics are not surprising, Deborah Cowen reveals, if we understand its genesis in war.

    InThe Deadly Life of Logistics, Cowen traces the art and science of logistics over the last sixty years, from the battlefield to the boardroom and back again. Focusing on choke points such as national borders, zones of piracy, blockades, and cities, she tracks contemporary efforts to keep goods circulating and brings to light the collective violence these efforts produce. She investigates how the old military art of logistics played a critical role in the making of the global economic order-not simply the globalization of production, but the invention of the supply chain and the reorganization of national economies into transnational systems. While reshaping the world of production and distribution, logistics is also actively reconfiguring global maps of security and citizenship, a phenomenon Cowen charts through the rise of supply chain security, with its challenge to long-standing notions of state sovereignty and border management.

    Though the object of corporate and governmental logistical efforts is commodity supply,The Deadly Life of Logisticsdemonstrates that they are deeply political-and, considered in the context of the long history of logistics, deeply indebted to the practice of war.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4318-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Citizenship of Stuff in the Global Social Factory
    (pp. 1-22)

    Sneakers may still be easier to order online than smart bombs, but the industry that brings us both is making it increasingly difficult to discern the art of war from the science of business. Today, war and trade are both animated by the supply chain—they are organized by it and take its form. At stake is not simply the privatization of warfare or the militarization of corporate supply chains. With logistics comes new kinds of crises, new paradigms of security, new uses of law, new logics of killing, and a new map of the world. For many,logisticsmay...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Revolution in Logistics: “America’s Last Dark Continent”
    (pp. 23-52)

    The simple little diagram shown in Figure 3 changed the world. With its childlike simplicity of rectangles and relationships, this 1970 representation of an “Alternative Orientation to Integrated Distribution Management” announced the birth of a field that would transform the global space economy in the decades to come. The diagram remained buried for more than forty years in the archives of theInternational Journal of Physical Distribution—an obscure outlet with a small professional circulation that no longer publishes under the same name. This diagram has rarely even seen the light of day since it was originally published, and even...

  6. CHAPTER TWO From National Borders to Global Seams: The Rise of Supply Chain Security
    (pp. 53-90)

    The diagram in Figure 10 appeared as part of a 2006New York Timesarticle on the growing challenge of securing global supply chains (Fattah and Lipton 2006). Assembled using data from the RAND Corporation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Government Accountability Office, and AMR Research, “Securing the Flow of Goods” illustrates the transnational journey of an imaginary shipping container from source to destination. The diagram highlights the myriad sites along the route where “security concerns” arise: opportunities for tampering with the contents of containers, sites where inspection technologies are outdated or inadequate, and places where physical security...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Labor of Logistics: Just-in-Time Jobs
    (pp. 91-128)

    Figure 21 offers a conceptual map of the application process for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). The TWIC is a pivotal element of the United States’ layered and risked-based approach to supply chain security in the broader “War on Terror,” which the U.S. administration is actively rebranding as “overseas contingency operations” (Anderson 2011, 206). It brings the United States into compliance with the International Maritime Organization’s 2004 International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code, itself implemented at the direct behest of the United States (Boske 2006). The diagram reveals many key elements of the program—the multiple “vettings”...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Geo-Economics of Piracy: The “Somali Pirate” and the Remaking of International Law
    (pp. 129-162)

    The diagram in Figure 25 marks the constitution of a new space: the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). This space cannot be seen on the open waters; there are no flags, checkpoints, or other markers of territorial authority on display. Yet the IRTC—a special zone for commercial ship traffic now subject to intensive multinational naval policing in the Gulf of Aden—is a key element in a dramatic experiment in the recasting of political space, international law, and imperial violence. The IRTC is part of an ensemble of legal experiments to assert geo-economic imperial authority in the area. Faced...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Logistics Cities: The “Urban Heart” of Empire
    (pp. 163-196)

    The illustration in Figure 26 is one in a series of designs for the dramatic transformation of a place that became globally notorious in the early years of the twenty-first century. While Basra Logistics City might not be familiar to many, the site’s former identity marks it as one of the world’s most violent and contested places in contemporary cartographies of warfare. Basra Logistics City is located in southern Iraq, near Umm Qasr—the country’s only deepwater port. As Iraq’s single maritime connection to the Persian Gulf, the port and surrounding area have for centuries been a busy trade and...

  10. CONCLUSION: Rough Trade? Sex, Death, and the Queer Nature of Circulation
    (pp. 197-232)

    Figure 35 captures one moment in the extraordinary migration of the pronghorn antelope. Taking the longest trek of any land mammal in the United States, their migration follows the western mountain range. Increasingly treacherous as a result of human development and enclosure, their fraught migration has led the population of pronghorn to plummet to only 158 animals. This scene of seasonal circulation is captured in a major recent National Geographic production titledGreat Migrations. The series explains that the precarious life of the pronghorn rests on the protection of their mobility. In fact, this is the recurring theme of the...

    (pp. 233-236)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 237-238)
    (pp. 239-278)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 279-290)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)