When describing the word logistics there are few things that at first appear more unintuitive than the term ‘concrete’. Seemingly solid and rock-like, concrete is immobile and heavy. On reconsideration, of course, concrete was and continues to be the very infrastructure for industrialization. Since the 19th century, it has been the material that made possible roads, buildings, factories and many other built environments that are now commonly understood as ‘modern’. In fact, it is the material most often invoked in modernist architectural and design projects. The very auteurs of modernist design and architecture such as Le Corbusier favoured the material. When called upon by Nehru to produce a new capital for the post-colonial Punjab – the city of Chandigarh – Corbusier did not hesitate to build the monumental structures of concrete, even as the material was found to be almost untenable and unmaintainable under the climatic conditions. These now seemingly decaying but still operative monuments continue to serve, however, as both icons and memorials to a previous industrial and national order fantasized in the wake of Independence. It is not only Indians who fell in love with concrete. From the Bauhaus to the Futurists, concrete was the preferred building material that bridged nature with industry to induce new possibilities for ever faster cars, buildings and cities. All these utopias were built on a cement foundation that would creatively destroy the world before it.
Logistics outside logistics
Logistical Worlds: Infrastructure, Software, Labour studies Chinese-led globalization and the role played in it by logistical operations and related infrastructures such as ports, railways, pipelines or IT networks. The project seeks to understand how global logistics is reshaping global governance and the relations between political command, institutions and economic calculation. The research is being developed around three main sites: Piraeus Port in Greece, the port area of Kolkata (Calcutta) in India and the complex of Chilean logistical infrastructures, including the port of Valparaíso.
Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter
Our previous collective research project, Transit Labour (2009-2012), investigated circuits of labour and logistical operations in Shanghai, Kolkata and Sydney. Transit Labour traced the informality of e-waste industries and the political economy of standards in printed circuit board manufacturing in China. An extensive period of field work, site visits and archival research made clear how the rise of ‘New Towns’ supporting the IT sector in Kolkata was made possible by land zoning policies that resulted in the seizure of land from peasants, which we understood as a process of primitive accumulation. In Sydney our research focused on labour in regimes of governance related to shipping container loading and unloading times, transport routes, warehousing and inter-modal terminals. We saw how these primary components of a logistical city present a model of space, time, labour and economy whose dynamics register in ways distinct from the global city of finance capital and the industrial city of factories. Peripheries become primary spaces of coordination and control. Global infrastructural and software standards stitch spaces, labour and operational procedures together across diverse geographical scales and modalities of time.
Anything new carries an aura of a promise and consequently an expectation. The not yet operational New Ikonion – Thriassion rail line does exactly that, as it unfolds from its origin in the heavily guarded Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) facilities to the under construction Thriassion Freight and Intermodal Center. Scenarios about Cosco’s expansion that may generate employment in the area are futuristic and speculative. Unsubstantiated hopes have risen high amongst residents populating the areas that the rail crosses, expecting benefits for their communities, which will come, depending on their location, either from the development of Piraeus harbor and the PCT terminal, from Cosco or from the rail line itself.