CANCELLED: "The Corporeal Life of Commerce at Sea." - Laleh Khalili (Queen Mary University of London)
Monday, April 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center, D1103 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, Room D1103
The everyday life of seafarers steaming across Arab seas and serving Arab posts today is shaped not only by their daily interactions with one another and with their officers (who are often of other nationalities), but also by the corporeal transformations they experience in their sensory relationship with the sea and the stars, the weather, and the technology around them. The body of the seafarer is the fulcrum upon which global and workplace asymmetries of power, long traditions and conventions of seafaring, and gendered and racialised subjectivities all conjoin in complex and unexpected ways. This lecture will speak not only of wages stolen and hunger ships managed by rapacious and unregulated shipping companies or the affective power of loneliness and loss at sea, but also the ephemeral moments of joy and solidarity forged aboard ships, and of the pleasures of arrival at ports. In focusing on the corporeal life of commerce at sea, she pays heed to exhortations of feminists and scholars of racial capitalism to centre the lives of those forgotten or dismissed at the conjuncture of capital accumulation and raced and gendered hierarchies. This lecture will reflect on the lives and bodies of modern seafarers in the western Indian Ocean. Drawing on ethnography aboard containerships steaming Arab seas, the archives of various missions to seafarers serving Arabian Peninsula ports, local and global union cases on their behalf, and other literary and archival documents in Arabic and English, the quotidian life of labour, tedium, longing, and camaraderie aboard ships today will also be considered. Perhaps most important, this lecture will show that to think about commerce at sea, we have to locate the Arab world’s economy in a global network of capital accumulation, and to seek in the macropolitical sweep of history the human-sized, the everyday, the embodied experience, and the affective lives of the people who make such commerce possible.
Laleh Khalili is a professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London and the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine (Cambridge 2007) and Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford 2013). Her new book Sinews of War and Trade, on the politics of maritime infrastructures and transport will be out with Verso in May 2020.
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