Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Deadly Life of Logistics

Mapping Violence in Global Trade

2014
Author:

Deborah Cowen

The Deadly Life of Logistics

A genealogy of logistics, tracing the link between markets and militaries, territory and government

Deborah Cowen traces the art and science of logistics over the past sixty years, from the battlefield to the boardroom and back again. Though the object of corporate and governmental logistical efforts is commodity supply, she demonstrates that they are deeply political—and, considered in the context of the long history of logistics, deeply indebted to the practice of war.

This is an insightful, extremely innovative, and much-needed book. In revealing the histories, genealogies, and geographies of our ‘logistical world,’ The Deadly Life of Logistics opens up crucial issues of contemporary politics that are all too often, as Deborah Cowen says, rendered ‘invisible in plain sight’ by their very ubiquity and normality. Blending deep genealogical insight, social and political theory, and topical contemporary case studies, the book’s fusion is tremendously powerful. It is an immense achievement.

Mimi Sheller, Drexel University

In a world in which global trade is at risk, where warehouses and airports, shipping lanes and seaports try to guard against the likes of Al Qaeda and Somali pirates, and natural disaster can disrupt the flow of goods, even our “stuff” has a political life. The high stakes of logistics are not surprising, Deborah Cowen reveals, if we understand its genesis in war.

In The Deadly Life of Logistics, Cowen traces the art and science of logistics over the past sixty years, from the battlefield to the boardroom and back again. Focusing on choke points such as national borders, zones of piracy, blockades, and cities, she tracks contemporary efforts to keep goods circulating and brings to light the collective violence these efforts produce. She investigates how the old military art of logistics played a critical role in the making of the global economic order—not simply the globalization of production but the invention of the supply chain and the reorganization of national economies into transnational systems. While reshaping the world of production and distribution, logistics is also actively reconfiguring global maps of security and citizenship, a phenomenon Cowen charts through the rise of supply chain security, with its challenge to long-standing notions of state sovereignty and border management.

Though the object of corporate and governmental logistical efforts is commodity supply, The Deadly Life of Logistics demonstrates that they are deeply political—and, considered in the context of the long history of logistics, deeply indebted to the practice of war.

Awards

International Studies Association — Book Award of the International Political Sociology Section

The Deadly Life of Logistics

Deborah Cowen is associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Military Workfare: The Soldier and Social Citizenship in Canada.

The Deadly Life of Logistics

This is an insightful, extremely innovative, and much-needed book. In revealing the histories, genealogies, and geographies of our ‘logistical world,’ The Deadly Life of Logistics opens up crucial issues of contemporary politics that are all too often, as Deborah Cowen says, rendered ‘invisible in plain sight’ by their very ubiquity and normality. Blending deep genealogical insight, social and political theory, and topical contemporary case studies, the book’s fusion is tremendously powerful. It is an immense achievement.

Mimi Sheller, Drexel University

Fascinating, informative and politically engaged.

We Make Money Not Art

The Deadly Life of Logistics is both an important contribution to understandings of globalization, security, and economy, and an opening to further inquiry on the political and economic geographies of the material movement of goods.

Antipode

Thought provoking.

Consumption Markets and Culture

Cowen’s The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade is a welcome contribution, clearly showing how something as purely technical as logistics has turned into a phenomenon shaping politics in several different relams, and will surely be a good read for those interested in political geography, critical geopolitics, labor rights, the history of logistics, and international relations.

International Studies Review

Cowen’s [The Deadly Life of Logistics] provides a much-needed alternative and critical reading of the spatial organization of logistics. It is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the changing nature of economic space in neoliberal economies.

The Canadian Geographer

Cowen’s work rightfully challenges the dominant discourses that have pervaded the academic debates on logistics.

Cultural Geography

The Deadly Life of Logistics

Contents

Abbreviations

Introduction: The Citizenship of Stuff in the Global Social Factory

1. The Revolution in Logistics: “America’s Last Dark Continent”
2. From National Borders to Global Seams: The Rise of Supply Chain Security
3. The Labor of Logistics: Just-in-Time Jobs
4. The Geo-economics of Piracy: The ‘Somali Pirate’ and the Remaking of International Law
5. Logistics Cities: The “Urban Heart” of Empire

Conclusion: Rough Trade? Sex, Death, and the Queer ‘Nature’ of Circulation

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index