ASA2018: Logistics, time and environment

Convenors: Scott Lash and Sophie Haines
Discussant: Biao Xiang

Logistics, Time and Environment

Culture has often taken the form of gift exchange and - from the origins of industrial capitalism - of commodity exchange. But in our age of digital capitalism culture may be increasingly taking on the parameters of logistics. Logistics is not just a question of cultural mobilities; it is about the movement of things - material and immaterial, human and non-human - and the management of flows through operations, platforms and port(al)s, actor-networks; material infrastructures of instruments, telecommunications, concrete channels; and less-tangible infrastructures of tacit knowledge and standards.

What kind of transformations of time are taking place in logistics-culture? Is the previously linear/Newtonian time of the commodity being displaced by the self-causing time of the socio-technical system? Is phenomenological time ceding to the externalization of memory as software and hardware? To understand the geopolitics of contemporary initiatives (e.g. One Belt One Road) we need to look to the stakes of previous instantiations.

The relationship of infrastructures with environments extends beyond the ecological impact of logistics projects to the consideration of environments as infrastructures that render (ecosystem) services. How are environmental imaginations stabilised/contested in the infrastructural in-between of devices/practices that underpin resource use, environmental health, and disaster management logistics?

We will look at movements of information, migrants, capital, environmental resources, and other goods in a logistics-culture and its historical precedents. If a previous age saw the temporality of beings (Newton), and the phenomenological time of being, perhaps we should shift our gaze from being(s) and time to logistics and time.


2 Sessions

Oxford Examination School (75 - 81 High St, Oxford, OX1 4BG)


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The Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth’s 2018 conference will take place in Oxford on September 18-21 and will be hosted by the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) of the University of Oxford.

For full details on the conference, visit the School of Anthropology website or the ASA website.