Cargomobilities: Moving Materials in a Global Age, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover


Moving Materials in a Global Age, 1st Edition

Edited by Thomas Birtchnell, Satya Savitzky, John Urry


236 pages | 16 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2015-04-16
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Objects and materials are on the move like never before, often at astonishing speeds and along hidden routeways. This collection opens to social scientific scrutiny the various systems which move objects about the world, examining their fateful implications for many people and places. Offering texts from key thinkers, the book presents case studies from around the world which report on efforts to establish, maintain, disrupt or transform the cargo-mobility systems which have grown so dramatically in scale and significance in recent decades. 


This unique collection takes us on a fascinating journey through some of the hidden hubs and flows that are the lifeblood of our contemporary world. It shows how cargomobilities generate some of the most challenging social, ethical, economic and political dilemmas of our time. Combining conceptual richness with ethnographic detail, the authors in this collection bring cargomobilities to life like never before. - Dr David Bissell, The Australian National University, Australia

Movements of cargo and freight have long been the privileged concerns of economists and logistics experts, with very little understanding of their broader relevance to the social sciences. This exciting new book opens out a new field, providing important studies of the political, social, and spatial implications of cargomobilities. Peter Merriman, Aberystwyth University, UK

Circulating in the pervasive networks of a containerized world, this global granular study tracks the movement of the heavy components of digital capital. Nearly everything we consume has been calibrated and synchronized in these logistical landscapes that stretch into and striate both air and sea. - Keller Easterling, Yales School of Architecture, USA

The movement of things is central to the working of a modern capitalist world. Mobility adds value. Outside of specialist literature in the field of logistics this middle section of the production-distribution-consumption triad has been the least exposed to critical analysis. This book corrects this oversight and does so much more besides. A stellar collection of essays by leading thinkers in the field of mobilities shines a bright lights into the often invisible, sometimes turbulent, world of the distribution of cargo by sea, land and air. This book is landmark collection for the exciting and never-more-important world of mobility studies. - Tim Cresswell, Professor of History and International Affairs, Northeastern University, Boston, USA.

This book is an incredible resource. Offering a dazzling array of insight and analysis, and an impressive collection of authors, Cargomobilities establishes without a doubt that the movement of stuff is one of the most vital - and fascinating - areas of contemporary scholarship. - Deborah Cowen, Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Canada

The book offers an expansive and novel set of chapters that consider the intermodal nature of cargo mobility (from sea to land), and also those cargo movements lay beyond shipping altogether (air cargo and virtual cargo). To say this book matters is to sell short its vital contribution to making known the invisible world of logistics. In bringing the movement of stuff – things, material, matter – to the fore, Cargomobilities makes visible and knowable the largely hidden world of logistics (p. xiii) and crucially the politics that underscores the movements that shape and are shaped by, our daily lives.— Kimberley Peters, University of Liverpool, The Mariner’s Mirror

Table of Contents

1. Moving cargos, Thomas Birtchnell, Satya Savitzky and John Urry 1.1. Taking Stock1.2. The Smooth System 1.3. Forgotten Spaces 1.4. Friction and Insecurities in the Smooth System 1.5. Other Systems 1.6. Cargo and resources 1.7. Changing cargomobilities?2. Distribution Centres as Distributed Places: Mobility, infrastructure, and truck traffic, Julie Cidell 2.1. Introduction 2.2. Space and Spatiality 2.3. Freight, Warehousing, and Distribution Centres 2.4. Distribution Centres as Distributed Places 2.5. Mobility within the Distribution Centre 2.6. Distributed Mobility 2.7. Distributed Labor 2.8. Distribution of Information 2.9. Distribution and Distributed Places 3. Maritime Cargomobilities: The impossibilities of representation, Philip E. Steinberg 3.1. Cartographies of Maritime Transport 3.2. The Forgotten Space 3.3. Enacting Cargomobilities 3.4. Conclusion 4. A City that Exports Air: Containers, traffic and logistics in Sydney’s intermodal network and beyond, Brett Neilson 4.1. The Container in Time 4.2. China-led Globalization 4.3. Sydney Traffic 4.4. Conclusion 5. Smuggling mobilities: Parasitic relations, and the aporetic openness of the shipping container, Craig Martin 5.1. Introduction 5.2. The Distributive Space of Cargomobilities 5.3. The Intermodal ISO Shipping Container 5.4. Unruly Cargomobilities 5.5. Parasitic Relations 5.6. Parasitic Entanglements of Legal and Illegal Cargomobilities 5.7. The Smuggler-Object: Nesting on the flow of parasitic relations 5.8. Conclusion 6. The New Zones of Circulation: On the production and securitisation of maritime frontiers in West Africa, Julian Stenmanns, Stefan Ouma 6.1. Introduction 6.2. Reframing West African Economies in an Age of Connectivity 6.3. Interconnectivity, Supply Chain Security and Maritime Economies 6.4. Port Security Apparatus: The case of Tema 6.5. Mundane Assembly of Global Circulation 6.6. Stowaways – ‘A Near Miss for Terrorism’ 6.7. Conclusion 7. Immobilising and Containing: Entrapment in the container economy, Rachael Squire 7.1. "It’s Frantic Life…" 7.2. Ship Shaped? 7.3. When Geopolitics and Geoeconomics Collide 7.4. Contained 7.5. Conclusion 8. Identifying Material, Geographical and Institutional Mobilities in the Global Maritime Trade System, Jason Monios and Gordon Wilmsmeier 8.1. Introduction 8.2. Understanding Categories of Mobility 8.3. Port System Evolution 8.4. Concentration and Deconcentration 8.5. Centralisation and Decentralisation 8.6. Port Competition and Hinterland Capture 8.7. Institutional Adaptation: Autopoiesis and recursion 8.8. Applying a Systems Perspective to Material Mobilities 8.9. Conclusion 9. Dangerous Cargo and Uneven Toxic Risks: Petrochemicals in the port of New Orleans, Alice Mah 9.1. Petrochemicals in the Port of New Orleans 9.2. Conclusion 10. Air Cargo Mobilities: Past, present and future, Lucy Budd and Stephen Ison 10.1. Introduction 10.2. Air Cargo Defined 10.3. The Historical Development of Air Cargo 10.4. Contemporary Air Cargo Mobilities: Airports, airlines, attributes, and aircraft 10.5. The Future of Air Cargo Mobilities 11. Oil on the Move, Satya Savitzky and John Urry 11.1. Introduction 11.2. Energy and Societies 11.3 The Coal System 11.4. The Oil System 11.5. Oil ‘Leaks’ and Spills 11.6. The Oil System ‘Spills’ 11.7. ‘Oil on Water’ 11.8. Oil Piracy 11.9. Oil Futures 11.10. Oil Insecurity 11.11. Conclusion 12. Digital Cargo: 3D printing for development at the ‘bottom of the pyramid,’ Thomas Birtchnell and William Hoyle 12.1. The Limits of Cargo 12.2. A 3D Printing Grassroots Innovation Movement 12.3. Community Printers 12.4 Open Repositories 12.5. Recycled Materials 12.6. 3D Printing Infrastructure 12.7. Conclusion

About the Editors

Thomas Birtchnell is Lecturer in Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong.

Satya Savitzky is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University.

John Urry is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University.

About the Series

Changing Mobilities

This series explores the transformations of society, politics and everyday experiences wrought by changing mobilities, and the power of mobilities research to inform constructive responses to these transformations. As a new mobile century is taking shape, international scholars explore motivations, experiences, insecurities, implications and limitations of mobile living, and opportunities and challenges for design in the broadest sense, from policy to urban planning, new media and technology design. With world citizens expected to travel 105 billion kilometres per year in 2050, it is critical to make mobilities research and design inform each other.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General


Watch this short animation to learn more about Cargomobilities.