Tankers, Tycoons, and Radical Transformations. The Making of Modern Regimes of Law, Labour, and Finance
Lecture, 25th march 2019, 19 p.m., Uni Freiburg KG I 1015, Prof. Dr. Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics, Department of Politics and International Studies and Founding Member of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice at SOAS, University of London.
Abstract: Excellent recent research on the politics of containerisation and the logic of logistics (Levinson; Cowen; Sekula) has shown the transformations these new modalities of disciplining trade have wrought not only on the circulation of goods but also the processes of production, since the 1950s when containers were invented, and especially after the 1960s, when their usage was normalised during the Vietnam war. However, many of the practices we now associate with containerisation – foremost among them the automation of processes of maritime circulation, and the transformation of urban landscapes around the ports – go back at least two decades before the 1950s, to the legal, engineering, and financial innovations around petroleum tankers. By focusing on the tanker terminals of the Arabian Peninsula since the 1930s and the subsequent burgeoning of tanker-ships plying the trade between the Peninsula and the rest of the world, I will illuminate the radical transformations the particularities' of tanker trade has wrought. This includes early instances of automated workplaces; terminals far enough from port-city centres to isolate them from public scrutiny; and disciplining of workers aboard tanker-ships. Further, the shift in ownership structures and financing of tanker trades over the last one-hundred years either foreshadows or dramatically illuminates the transformations in financial capital itself. Finally, much of lex petrolea, the legal and arbitral corpus that sets the parameter of extraction and circulation of oil, itself provides the ground on which late capitalist legal property regimes are founded.