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Lecture | Gravensteen Lecture

Quartermasters of Capital

  • Laleh Khalili
Friday 9 September 2016
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

The first Gravensteen Lecture of the academic year will be given by Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics at SOAS, University of London. She will talk about her new research on the politics and political economy of war and militaries as it intersects with infrastructure, logistics and transport.

Quartermasters of Capital

In this lecture, I will reflect on the echoes and traces of colonial practices that still arise when we consider the making of maritime transport in the Arabian Peninsula. These echoes and traces are most visible in the emergence and decline of ports, in the massive movement of capital, people and coercive organisations that support maritime and mercantile enterprise, and in the language that celebrates these vast movements. Today’s megaships, supply chain logistics, and the electronic and industrial apparatuses and processes that animate them, may seem like a far cry from the commodity and indentured labourers’ ships of old. Yet, something about the synchronicity of neo-mercantilist practice, "free-trade" bromides, and neoliberal celebrations of entrepreneurialism and enterprise disturbs the clear periodisations of colonial and post-colonialeras. Whether it is route-making and enduring trans-oceanic connections of labour and trade and war, or the geography of ports and inland transportation crossroads and hubs, today’s transportation sector bears echoes and traces of these colonial pasts.


Laleh Khalili

Laleh Khalili is Professor of Middle East Politcs at SOAS. 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.

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