Logistics from the margins

Seaports at global margins rarely feature in contemporary discussions of the logistics industry. This paper brings together recent geographical writing on logistics with discussions of margins as paradoxical sites of inclusive exclusion. Building on fieldwork on the docks of Freetown, Sierra Leone – a port that experts in logistics problematize as a ‘contaminated’ place within the global shipping community – this contribution shows that seaports at global margins are in fact at the centre of key projects of global circulation. While logistics embodies universal aspirations to connectivity, it is profoundly dependent on the uneven terrains of global capitalism. To make this case, this contribution traces the interventions of a global terminal operator and the US Coast Guard to reposition a port at the margins and discusses their effects on logistical and political orders. In doing so, this paper offers a critical perspective on the power geometries of the global logistics industry. Logistics in this view is not only a political technology that creates seamless interconnectivity and transforms heterogeneous places with diverse socialities, political configurations and technological infrastructures into zones of global circulation. The implementation of logistics is also an intrinsically controversial, precarious and contested project.

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Volume 37 Issue 5

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