… is not a possession but a continuous process, whereby the collective self (autos) attempts to create its own territory and patterns of conduct (nomos). Autonomous struggles seek gains and concessions as pathways to new solidarities and rights beyond labor. Autonomous culture recognizes the pervasiveness and fundamental commonness of words and images (even the most manipulative) and strives to create not just liberating content, but also a care for the flow of everyday poetics. Autonomous inhabitation tries to break the double law of productivism/ consumerism, and to shape personal desire according to the potentials of coexistence.
“High-resolution photographs are taken of the container to record its condition and identification number. The license plate of the vehicle is captured and recorded. Then the identity of the driver is biometrically verified. The driver must present a valid driver’s license and place his or her finger on a biometric sensor that captures the unique aspects of the fingerprint. The driver is also photographed. The rail yards’ database is queried with the driver’s license number. The query result is the stored fingerprint template associated with that license. That stored template is matched against the live fingerprint information just captured.”
A region determined by a watershed, literally an area of land through which all water flows toward a single body of water – usually a river. It can also be recognized by the presence of certain economic/material, cultural and species/ecological characteristics. We all live in a bioregion, but its boundaries rarely coincide with political borders. Bioregional mapping can be used to imagine a physical and cultural area that displaces human centrism, allowing for the consideration of other species and different possibilities for coexistence. A good tool for imagining the ground beneath the sidewalk. (Sarah Lewison)
Intermodalism dates from April 26, 1956, when Malcom McLean loaded 58 aluminum truck bodies onto a tanker for transport from Newark to Houston. Next came the Sea-Land container: a corrugated steel box with a reinforced floor and corner couplings. The water-to-wheels concept offered heightened speed and security along with huge savings on labor, spurring an international standardization process. Deregulation of the US transport industry was completed by the early 1980s. The rationalization of the docks broke the longshoremen’s unions, historically the strongest sector of the labor movement.
Cam Ranh Bay
… was the first military port specifically adapted for container transport. The terminal there was built and operated by the Sea-Land corporation and opened in November of 1967. The containerization of military operations was promoted by Sea-Land founder Malcom McLean (the inventor of the box) and adopted under McNamara’s effort to rationalize the supply chain for 540,000 soldiers in Vietnam. In a profitable move, McLean sent empty containers from Cam Ranh and other Vietnamese ports to Yokohama, Japan, to be loaded with consumer electronics bound for California. The military science of logistics would now make its impact on corporate distribution systems.
Term coined by the economists Ferguson and Schularick (2007). Refers to the ultimate feedback device: the capital circuit linking Chinese production to American consumption by way of global supply chains and sovereign finance. US consumption allows China to develop its factories and provide a job for millions leaving rural life, who would otherwise revolt. Chinese production, distributed cheap by big-box retailers, allows elites to compress the wages of US workers, who would otherwise revolt. US Treasury bonds allow China to keep its currency value down by exporting trade dollars back to the States to help pay for Chinese products. Is it all a mere illusion – or a two-headed monster?
Commodities That Speak
“Where did logistics get this ambition to connect bodies, objects, affects, information, without subjects, without the formality of subjects, as if it could reign sovereign over the informal, the concrete and generative indeterminacy of material life? The truth is, modern logistics was born that way. Or more precisely it was born in resistance to, given as the acquisition of, this ambition, this desire and this practice of the informal. Modern logistics is founded with the first great movement of commodities, the ones that could speak. It was founded in the Atlantic slave trade, founded against the Atlantic slave.” (Stefano Harney & Fred Moten)
… refers to the shift from manually loaded cargo to standardized steel boxes that can be moved seamlessly from ship to truck to train; see “Box.” The ease, security and low cost of container transport allows manufacturing to move to places where labor costs are low and environmental regulations lax; see “Narcoliberalism.” The traceability of containers facilitates continuous logistical control; see “Supply chain management.” What kind of alienation occurs when all of a country’s factory labor is relocated overseas? See “Spatial threat.” What lies at the origins of containerization? See “Commodities that speak.”
… is an emergent science for the imposition of mobile geographies on static populations. Its concepts are generally masked in green and communitarian rhetoric, due to widespread popular rejection of highway, airport, rail and pipeline programs. A manual states: “Typical elements of the process include corridor designation, partnering agreements, visioning, corridor analysis, alternatives development and selection, and an implementation plan and agreements.” Major examples include TRACEA in the EU, the “Golden Quadrilateral” in India, IIRSA in South America and the MesoAmerican [Biological] Corridor in Central America. Do we have it too? See “NASCO.”
… embodies the ideal of continuous product flow from factory to the consumer. In a cross-dock warehouse, conveyor belts extend right up to the unloading bays and all the way into the container. The worker tosses the commodity onto the belt. Scanners identify it and then automatically shunt it through a labyrinth of other conveyors until its reaches the outgoing container. The worker then loads directly from the extensible belt to the stack at the back of the truck. Cross docking can also be performed without any automation, by intensive warehouse labor. The goal of the device is to eliminate unproductive storage and realize the logistical ideal. Compare “dwell time.”
With electronic data interchange (EDI), every aspect of production, transport, display and sales can be recorded, represented and analyzed, to continuously map out the trajectory of each object being handled. The result is an “executive information system” that rationalizes operations, accelerating the pace and squeezing the workers. Still it’s not enough for capital. As systems designer Paul Westerman explains, “Aggressive retailers will continue until all company data is available for analysis. They will build an enterprise data warehouse. They give all this information to their internal users (buyers) and external users (suppliers) to exploit and demand measurable improvement.”
A warehouse subjected to just-in-time techniques is transformed into a Distribution Center (DC). All its inventories are captured in data streams and mobilized by feedback loops from other sites in the system. The same governing logic is applied to undocumented people captured in Detention Centers. Each is assigned to a more-or-less arbitrary category, then shipped across the country for administrative processing. Claims of efficient border policing and due process of law mask the real imperatives: producing statistics to justify the management of low-wage immigrant labor, and feeding the logistics machine. That’s the logic that governs right now in D.C.
Today’s complex finance grows directly from the grain futures traded in nineteenth-century Chicago. Derivatives include options to buy or sell a given asset at a fixed price on a future date. They can also be swaps of one type of volatility (such as an interest rate) for another (say, a fluctuating currency). Derivatives insure against risks such as weather events, political instability or war. They attempt to smooth out global financial flows, regulating investment levels between industries, services, products or regions. Derivatives are a device for comparing everything to everything, everywhere, at all times. They seek a perfect equilibrium. Yet the endless race for profit means there is none.
… is a phrase referring to the amount of time a given commodity remains at an intermediate phase of the transport process, whether in a stack of containers or in a warehouse. Dwell time is measured, tabulated, aggregated and analyzed by managers, who relentlessly seek to eliminate anything that doesn’t move. A word connoting the richest and deepest forms of inhabitation in the depth of time becomes the indicator of everything that must be banished from the logistical universe. Flexible workers, cross-docking warehouses and global supply chains are all antithetical to a great human aspiration: just dwelling for a while.
Ethics of scale
Geographer Neil Smith proposed three telescoping scales of relations: the urban, the national and the global. There are other scales within and between the three that he indicated, extending from the intimate worlds of the household and neighborhood to larger, more complex units like regional federations and continental blocs. Though vastly different in almost every respect, these scales intersect in everyday life, opening fresh possibilities and imposing stark disjunctions. Ignoring the breaks and transitions won’t make them them go away. To be mindful of how one’s actions function and resonate across the gaps is to practice an ethics of scale.
They are literally grounds: inhabited spaces of the body, pacings, ranges of movement, graspings, sinkholes and sometimes dead ends. Think of a landscape, an ocean, a neighborhood, a street corner, the four walls of your ecstatic and unbearable bedroom. Territory is not only a category of human settlement but also of ethology, that is, animal behavior. It is the home yet also the nest, lair or den, the warm and familiar haunt that can coax you into well-being or veer off into obsessional repetition. How to exist and change, how to expand into new horizons without breaking ties or invading the space of others? Cohabitation implies care for the territory.
… is the basic concept of cybernetics. It’s a flow of information about an environment that allows a machine to adjust its current states to changes in the surround (including changes of its own making). If WalMart is a machine, then its customers are part of its environment, along with its far-flung suppliers. By signing for a purchase or delivery, they create information for the machine. Previous customer behaviors can be analyzed and projected. Supplier performance can be measured and evaluated. Both supply chains and retail outlets are adjusted to meet anticipated consumer demand, which itself is adjusted by advertising and price signals. Feedback loops use the past to create the future.
Congress passed the Foreign-Trade Zones Act in 1934, amid the Great Depression. FTZs are secured areas considered to be outside the tariff boundaries of the United States from the perspective of goods movement, storage, refinery, manufacturing, packaging, assembly, testing and destruction. In 2011, over 12% of all foreign good entered the US though FTZs – 75% as crude oil. Goods moving between FTZs and military bases remain in “international waters.” Early FTZs could be recognized by dramatic barbed wire fences, guarded by Customs agents. Today they are surrounded by electronic borders, and linked by sophisticated data streams. Wanna go offshore? It’s closer than you think.
With their wide spans, bright colors, steel cables and computerized cabins, gantry cranes are the muscle machines of the intermodal world. On the docks the fixed gantries rear up like horses, reaching over the new post-Panamax container ships. In the yards, rubber-tired gantries with GPS navigation lift boxes from the train and lay them down on the trailers. The newer yards, like the BNSF Logistics Park Kansas City, have fixed cranes that can stack five high if needed. But the trucks drive right beneath them, cutting the hostlers out of a job. Outsourced crews work in the cabins for 12-hour shifts. Search the whole site, you’ll find only three employees of the company that operates it.
Global supply chain
… describes the sequence of transportation procedures that allows raw materials, semi-finished goods and labor inputs to be shaped into a product delivered in a timely fashion to a dealer and a consumer. Supply chains can also be metropolitan, regional, national or continental. They depend on feedback information. They are characteristic of all globalized corporations and have become particularly vital for networked firms without vertical and horizontal integration. Rather than shipping intermediate products along fixed routes, such firms seek both inputs and outlets on markets that change all the time. A global supply chain is not a plan or a fixed architecture, but a flow chart and a dynamic algorithm.
How are seeds of life broken down into tradable commodities? The answer that emerged in nineteenth-century Chicago is an accumulation machine. Grain arrives from a given farm by barge or train. At the elevator it is sorted into standard grades (based on density, purity, moisture content, etc) and mixed with grain of the same grade. The farmer gets a receipt, not for the grain delivered, but for a quantity of that grade. The receipt can be redeemed or exchanged. Traders borrow these receipts, and sell speculators the right to purchase them later at a fixed price (“futures”). What looked like a silo with a conveyor belt is actually a bank. What looked like seeds of life are monetary reserves.
A lock is a set of maneuverable gates that acts to govern the level and flow of a river, canal or tidal basin. On one hand, the lock smooths the waterway by damming the flow, creating a navigable depth that can extend many miles upstream. On the other hand, it segments the waterway by flooding or draining a single narrow space, causing ships and barges to rise or fall between two different levels of water. Hydraulic locks are the original articulating device that opened up continental transportation for warships and heavy industry. They are the distant ancestor of every technical device that governs the accessibility and flow of a corridor.
Phrase used obsessively by a contact in the rail industry. The intermodal world is the operational space where containers are moved from one form of transport to the next. The main activities are the “lifts” from ship or train to truck and back again, carried out by crane operators. On-site drivers called “hostlers” move boxes around the world. Freight trains are assembled. Stacking containers, though undesirable from the business viewpoint, may be necessary at times. The intermodal world is bounded by identification devices that control the entry of trucks, drivers and personnel; but it is expanding practically everywhere. See “Biometric verification.”
The forgotten ancestor of today’s cross-dock distribution centers is the Toyota Production System, or “just-in-time production.” Developed in the ’60s, it’s based on continuous information flow between manufacturer and supplier, allowing for the delivery of custom-built parts in exact proportion to current needs without costly warehousing. To achieve this, Toyota developed cooperative relations with its subcontractors, far from the aggressive search for the lowest price practiced in Detroit. Similar techniques allowed Japanese industry to expand into a vast maritime network. The customer, too, was to be drawn into the informational flow: the factory itself should run on the buyers’ orders.
… is the American term for the Japanese practice of just-in-time production, which depends on feedback information from both customers and suppliers to ensure a steady flow of material into and out of the factory, improving quality control and eliminating the need for wasteful and costly warehousing. Over the last thirty years this idea has been applied on a world scale, creating global supply chains in continuous motion. Workers are easily displaced if they don’t keep up with the flow. But what’s all this acceleration good for? “Poetically man dwells,” wrote the poet Holderlin. Unfortunately, the bosses just don’t see it that way.
The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor is a cartography of shared experience, shaped by those who nourish lasting ties between critical groups, political projects, radical communities and experiments in alternative existence. Why not help build the commons by overflowing your usual daily routines? If you just take the time to experience the territories you are continually traversing, then together we can create what Stephen Shukaitis calls an “imaginal machine.” It’s a many-headed hydra telling tales of solidarity, struggle and outlandish dreams in the places that power forgets – leaving their inhabitants free to remember living histories and to work toward better tomorrows.
… describes the reality of neoliberal business practices in a world that is gradually breaking down under the effects of fragmentation, inequality, corruption and environmental damage, all produced and/or exacerbated by exactly those same business practices. Cut-throat competition and draconian management plans imposed on flexible work teams are good equivalents of shoot-outs between rival gangs controlling drug turf. Cartels of financiers make a killing at the banks, while other cartels fix prices in white powders. Fiscal paradises in the Caribbean, which emerged from smuggling and mob activity to become corporate finance platforms, are the poster children of narcoliberalism. The gleaming white yacht is its emblem.
… or, North American SuperCorridor Coalition. It’s a network of inland ports stretching from Winnipeg, Canada, to San Luis Potosí in Mexico, via Kansas City, Alliance (TX) and San Antonio. More broadly, it’s an industry lobby pushing the development of multimodal freight traffic in the Heartland. Founded in 1997, it merged with Mexico-based North American International Trade Corridor Partnership in 2005. NASCO holds yearly summits and has lots of government partners. It’s comparable to CANAMEX further west. For the right wing, it’s a conspiracy to undermine US sovereignty and sell us all down the river. In reality, it’s just a capitalist planning org at continental scale.
Stuff goes where stuff is.” Path dependency describes the tendency of new technologies and organizational forms to cluster in the spatial environments of their predecessors, and to conform at least partially to the functions and characteristics of earlier generations of machines. To see this in action is to understand how history sets parameters for tomorrow’s inventions. Extended to society, it denotes the inertial force of existing concepts, rhetorics and patterns of belief, which influence all attempts to win support for a new endeavor or policy. Path dependency explains how a region takes shape, while pointing toward likely developments in the future. Patho-dependent? You’re not alone.
Built from 1904-14 by the US military, the canal is an imperial infrastructure. Its aim was to give warships fast access to both oceans. Its economic destiny was to unleash global logistics. The Canal Zone remained under US administration until 1999. Its inhabitants were the “Zonians.” They kept up the flow of traffic for strategic aims, business purposes and their own good life. Upon gaining sovereignty in 2000, Panama’s first autonomous act was to begin expanding the canal, with new sets of locks for post-Panamax ships. Currently the Canal Authority is mired in dispute with European contractors. Is sovereignty the right word for this condition? Or is the canal still part of empire?
Property: three registers
“Property as sovereignty governs jurisdictional transfers of territory from one nation to another, authorizing assertions of jurisdiction by bureaucratic, biopolitical, and military exercises. Property rights as capitalist alienation are used to create commodities, such as land and patents on life, and to protect, police, and regulate the commodities produced. Property as ‘taking care’ represents a set of practices that govern peoples’ relationship to the land through forms of entitlement based on taking care for future generations. Collective benefits are conceived beyond human beings so that all benefits of life can be redistributed throughout the land.” (Shiri Pasternak).
Scales of experience
INTIMATE: as close as breath, direct speech, resonant body. TERRITORIAL: familiar pathways, places you traverse in a day. NATIONAL: institutions, traditions, laws, thick infrastructure. CONTINENTAL: emergent scale of political-economic organization. GLOBAL: abstraction, communication, corporate-government strategies.
Geographical affects involve the intensity of scales. Geo-awareness arises at their intersections. Geodysphoria is the condition of scalar overload. When one or more of the five scales is consistently minimized, ignored or repressed, you may be exposed to psychic and social manifestations of the geographical unconscious.
Also known as “tax havens,” they are crucial enablers of corporate control and safe harbors for liquid capital. Invented in Switzerland, extended to the “eurodollar” markets of the City of London, and perfected in Caribbean island territories like the Caymans, they’ve been brought to their apotheosis in the United States, which is now one big tax haven / secrecy zone. Want to stash your cash, launder your profits or cook your books without worrying about regulations, law, accountability or ethics? Have some ill-gotten gains you’d like to keep, or maybe even reinvest? Just ask your banker to recommend a pleasant beach in the Bahamas – or if you prefer, in Delaware.
… promises the efficient, hi-tech integration of surveillance and policing between local authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At any point during your time in the custody of local law enforcement — whether at a traffic stop, being booked, formally charged, awaiting trial, or serving a sentence — local authorities are able to pass your identification information to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. No formal vote or public debate is necessary for Secure Communities to be implemented locally, not even an official decree: it masks itself as a logistics improvement via augmented technological capabilities and systems integration
… is the umbrella concept invented by the three regional planning boards to sell Kansas City as a rail, highway and river crossroads. In the original concept KC would offer new electronic data integration standards facilitating exchanges between all supply-chain agents, as well as unconventional customs facilites that would expedite Mexican border formalities within Kansas City FTZs. This would achieve the full deterritorialization of a metropolitan region located squarely in the American heartland. It’s as though they analyzed Chicago and projected its ideal image into the future. The KC SmartPort does not exist on the ground. It’s a logistical utopia.
… is a name for the multimodal transport route leading from the harbors of the Calumet Basin to the warehouse districts of Joliet. Barges push chemicals up from Houston to the Great Lakes; trains rush by on their way out to California; superhighways stride over the rivers; coal plants generate dirty power; refineries pump kerosene to Midway and O’Hare airports; sophisticated modeling systems track the Chinese-made inventory of America’s largest and stingiest employer, Wal-Mart. All this retraces the path of the I&M Canal, built in the 1840s over the original portage route on which Chicago was founded. Our backyard is a genealogy of globalization.
… is a form of labor discipline exerted directly by the global supply chain. The effect is to separate workers from each other and from coherent legal environments, since tasks are distributed spatially across international boundaries. Solidarity breaks down through this fragmentation. Even more importantly, global supply chains mean that any group of workers can always be threatened with the loss of their jobs via outsourcing to a distant location. The menace of relocation hangs like a sharpened sword over all attempts at strikes or collective bargaining. Workers know how easily management can cut the tie that binds – just by packing up and leaving them unemployed.
An update of the Situationist dérive: Down with mobilism! The stationary drift is the practice of just sitting there and grokking it while the world accelerates. Letting it roll. Taking it in. Opening your eyes, mind, heart and senses to what’s already there, the immediate environment, the patterns of movement and stillness that make up a life in the early twenty-first century. The stationary drift appears to focus on the household and the neighborhood, but appearances are deceptive. The entire world is at stake in one place, if you lend it your attention. The microscopic and the cosmic are revealed to she who looks and listens. Get your China news from the next door neighbors.
Supply chain management
… describes the ways corporations attempt to control or at least influence the behavior of both direct and indirect employees, as well as “arm’s length” suppliers located along production lines and markets separated by great distances (usually transcontinental or transoceanic). Here, logistics is complicated by the involvement of semi-autonomous agents. Management’s job is the temporal coordination of every worker and machine, regardless of place, labor or status. Increasingly, this kind of management relies on extensive data collection and even the use of multi-agent software to simulate bargaining processes in advance of real negotiations. See “Data warehouse.”
… “or Transportation Worker Identification Credential, is a program that requires a fingerprint-based biometric credential for all seaport workers, including longshoremen, truck drivers, vendors, facility/vessel employees, maintenance personnel, and train crews. TWIC supports three-factor authentication: the credential (something you have), the biometric (something you are), and a PIN number (something you know). Intended for identity security threat assessment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and for identity authentication by the Coast Guard, the TWIC program faces the high hurdle of maintaining top biometric performance in the extreme environmental conditions of the seaports.”
A twist lock is an articulated steel device comprising a handle and two conical protuberances, one pointing up and one down. The bottom one fits inside a hole recessed into each corner of a container. Another container can then be set directly on the exposed upper cone. A simple twist of the handle locks the upper cone into place, binding the two containers into a stack. The humble twist lock is the single most ubiquitous device of the entire intermodal system. Whether on ocean-going freighters, barges, rail lines, trucks or in the high stacks of overflow yards, the twist lock binds together the flow of international commerce. It’s the linchpin of globalization.
Extra-territoriality and deportability are instruments of statecraft. They are also global regimes. The FTZ offers a perspective on the articulation of neoliberal logic and the state form, whereby territories and populations are increasingly zoned for optimal insertion into capital circuits. An undocumented perspective is emerging from the resistant knowledges of illegalized people. But “undocumented” does not mean status and is not an identity. Undocumented refers to set of practices and to the production of social relations that can be resistant to the capitalist relations of the zone. (No Name Collective)
… is KC SmartPort rhetoric to describe land that has been assembled for sale as a future logistics park by a real-estate company. The land is outfitted with foundations and plumbing, so any enterprise can build on it right away. The phrase is served up with high-powered computer graphics that show profit-making businesses rising from the ground in an eyeblink, as though leaping to fulfill the promise of speculative investment. In the KC sales pitch, twentieth-century planning is replaced by twenty-first century seduction. And across the world, ports, rail lines, intermodal yards and warehouse are springing up in oversupply to fulfill the same speculative promise.