Author Archives: Laleh Khalili

Religious fable about infrastructure

Source: Siyar al-Muluk by Nizam al-Mulk (died, 1092). Translation by Navīd Zarrinnal: “”They say when Umar was about to leave this world, his son asked him: “When will I see you?” Umar replied: “In the next world.” His son said: “I … Continue reading

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The use of free ports to stash arts

Interesting older item from New York Times on the use of free ports to stash away artworks (and other contraband): The drab free port zone near the Geneva city center, a compound of blocky gray and vanilla warehouses surrounded by train … Continue reading

Posted in capital accumulation, finance and insurance, free ports/zones, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The poetry of medieval maritime travel

I have been reading Arab navigation manuals and travelogues, and there is such poetry in the navigation manuals in particular. It is the liminality of the navigation texts in particular – between art and science, familiar and wholly other.  I … Continue reading

Posted in Middle East, seafaring, the sea, Travels, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Medieval Arab Naviation

“More interesting is the testimony of Ibn al-Mujawir who reports that in 626 A.H./1228-9 A.D. a ship arrived in Aden from Qumr (Comoros or Madagascar); the art of navigation of the people of Qumr impressed him as superior to that … Continue reading

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Of Ballast and Land Reclamation

That extraordinary image is from some time in the 1970s, and the container-ship steaming so serenely in Hudson River is a Jugolinija ship belonging to the Yugoslav national shipping line.  What is of course poignant about the image is that … Continue reading

Posted in capital accumulation, construction, environment, imperialism & colonialism, infrastructure, political economy, transport, Uncategorized, war | Leave a comment

The Multivalence of Infrastructures II – Rail

I am reading a fascinating article about colonial engineering. Canay Ozden’s fabulous “Pontifex Minimus” is about the British engineer of the Low (or old) Aswan Dam, and the article just drips with all sorts of wonderful quotable sections.  For example, … Continue reading

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The Multivalence of Infrastructure I – Roads

As always Paul Rabinow’s French Modern is an extraordinary reminder of how transport infrastructures serve functions at once military and commercial – and in fact “war, commerce, and transit” (in Paul Nizan’s memorable phrase) cannot be prised apart. Here is Rabinow … Continue reading

Posted in empire, empire, imperialism & colonialism, imperialism & colonialism, infrastructure, transport, Uncategorized, war | Leave a comment