hassangarh warehouse

Indo Arya’s Warehouse at Hassangarh, Haryana. At the time of its opening in 2012, India’s largest distribution center.

The calamitous reach of the global commodity chain stands as a monument to modernity’s practice of production. As contemporary critiques consider its mounting intractability, they reveal the worldwide pattern of logistical machinary given by the media forms and historic technologies that govern its flow. In their conceptual simplicity and historical transigence lies an opportunity for transformation, for innovation, and for interruption. While the vocabulary it draws upon might seem familiar, the language of logistics is not fixed. It must be made–and so can be re-made–by the tools and techniques assembled every day in service to supply.

This syllabus, intended for collaborative iteration and published on both Supply Studies and Github, is not intended to be taken simply as a Supply Studies or Critical Logistics reader–it contains far too many entries to serve that purpose. It presents a broad selection of texts from which more specialized seminars can be developed. In my own practice students are asked to read two (rotating) core texts for each meeting and an additional text on their own. When I have presented this as a workshop, readings are limited to shorter articles and essays rather than monographs and edited volumes.

Stage Setting

  • Cabinet 47: Logistics (Fall 2012).
    “Every time you put a letter in the mail, every time you stop at a traffic light, a complex–and usually invisible–network of logistics is at work. This issue also features James Whittington on the diaries of Dmitri Pavlov; Jacqueline Bochner on the harmonization of international postal systems; Daniella Stone on the logistics of the hospital kitchen; and a travelogue from the Cabinet ‘Hand-Delivered Issue Road Trip.’ Elsewhere in the issue: Rasha Salti on intrigue and celebrity in the bar of Beirut’s Phoenicia Hotel; Jeffrey Kastner on saintly ‘incorruptibles’; and Will Wiles on Bill Phillips’ “MONIAC,” a device that models the national economy using the flow of liquids.”
  • Neal Stephenson, “Mother Earth Mother Board,” Wired (December 1996).
    “In which the hacker tourist ventures forth across the wide and wondrous meatspace of three continents, acquainting himself with the customs and dialects of the exotic Manhole Villagers of Thailand, the U-Turn Tunnelers of the Nile Delta, the Cable Nomads of Lan tao Island, the Slack Control Wizards of Chelmsford, the Subterranean Ex-Telegraphers of Cornwall, and other previously unknown and unchronicled folk; also, biographical sketches of the two long-dead Supreme Ninja Hacker Mage Lords of global telecommunications, and other material pertaining to the business and technology of Undersea Fiber-Optic Cables, as well as an account of the laying of the longest wire on Earth.”
  • Michael Wilson, “Black Hole Base,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest (2014).
  • Joe Allen, “Studying Logistics,” Jacobin (2015).
  • Kenneth Tay, “The Social Network of Stuff: On Media, Logistics and Supply Chains,” Conversation with Matthew Hockenberry and Kenneth Tay, Public Seminar (2018)

Logistical Media

  • John Durham Peters, “Calendar, Clock, Tower” in Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between, ed. Jeremy Stolow (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012).
  • Judd Case, “Logistical Media: Fragments from Radar’s Prehistory,” Canadian Journal of Communication 38 (2013): 379-395.

Mining and Extraction

  • June Nash, We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979).
    “This book is about the high human cost of producing tin and other minerals. June Nash vividly describes the arduous physical labor and life of Bolivian miners in the physically inhospitable Andean mountains. More than an anthropological account of indigenous miners in far-off Bolivia, the book is a serious rendering of the contemporary social, economic, and political reality at the industrial world periphery.”
  • Andrew Walsh, “‘Hot money’ and daring consumption in a northern Malagasy sapphire-mining town,” American Ethnologist 30 (2003): 290–305.
    “In Ambondromifehy, a sapphire-mining town in northern Madagascar, young men earn and spend a great deal of what some call ‘hot money.’ Rather than invest their earnings with long-term intentions considered responsible and proper by some around them, they consume ‘daringly’ by spending money to fulfill immediate desires. Walsh argues that such ‘daring consumption’ might be understood as the active response of young men who refuse the passive roles allotted them by both the sapphire trade and traditional systems of social organization.”
  • Matthew Hockenberry, “Inkonvensional Pathways: Soldered Supply Chains From Indonesia’s Tin Islands,” in Objects In Motion: Globalizing Technology, 66-78 (Washington DC: Smithsonian Press, 2016).
  • Pieter Hugo, Permanent Error (London: Prestel, 2011) and a review by Sean O’Toole, “Permanent Error,” Mahala (May 2011). // via
  • Alex Golub, Leviathans at the Gold Mine: Creating Indigenous and Corporate Actors in Papua New Guinea (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).
  • James Smith and Jeffrey Mantz, “Do Cellular Phones Dream of Civil War?: The Mystification of Production and the Consequences of Technology Fetishism in the Eastern Congo,” in Inclusion and Exclusion in the Global Arena (New York: Routledge, 2006).
  • Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, “Extraction, logistics, finance: Global crisis and the politics of operations,” Radical Philosophy 178 (Mar/Apr 2013): 8–18.
  • Todd Frankel and Peter Whoriskey, “The Cobalt Pipeline,” “In Your Phone, In Their Air,” “Tossed Aside in the White Gold Rush,” Washington Post (September 30; October 2; December 19, 2016).
  • Ingrid Burrington, “Literal American Gold MineSan Francisco Art Quarterly (December 11, 2015).
  • Mats Ingulstad, Andrew Perchard, Espen Storli (eds.), Tin and Global Capitalism, 1850-2000: A History of “the Devil’s Metal” (London: Routledge, 2015).
  • Stuart Kirsch, Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014)
  • IIED, Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development “Global Report on Artisanal & Small-Scale Mining (January 2002).
  • A. Laurie Palmer, In the Aura of a Hole: Exploring Sites of Material Extraction (New York: Black Dog, 2015).
  • Anthony Bebbington and Jeffrey Bury (eds.), Subterranean Struggles: New Dynamics of Mining, Oil, and Gas in Latin America (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013).
  • Nicholas Robins, Mercury, Mining, and Empire: The Human and Ecological Cost of Colonial Silver Mining in the Andes (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).
  • Marina Welker, Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014).
  • Ted Genoways, “The Price of the Paperless Revolution,” Virginia Quarterly Review (Fall 2010). // via.
  • Arie Altena, “Nikel and Nikel Materiality,” Sonic Acts (2015).

Ivory and Elephants

Production and Assembly

  • Leslie Chang, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009).
    “China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest number in history. Factory Girls tells the story of two young women. From the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta, Chang paints a picture of a world where everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend when you lose your mobile phone; where English lessons can catapult you into a different social class. She takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital; karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; all before coming back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life.””
  • Aihwa Ong, Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: Factory Women in Malaysia (Albany: Suny Press, 1987).
    “Why are Malay women workers periodically seized by spirit possession on the shopfloors of modern factories? Ong captures the disruptions, conflicts, and ambivalences as they make the transition from peasant society to industrial production. To discover the meaning that the market economy and wage labor holds, Ong conducted anthropological field work in an agricultural district in Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia, undergoing rapid proletarianization. Weaving together history, ethnography, and quantitative analysis, she shows how the diverging roles of young men and women are increasingly channelled toward conformity with corporate culture and capitalist discipline.”
  • Matthew Hockenberry, “Material Epistemologies of the (Mobile) Telephone,” Anthropology Quarterly 91, no. 2 (Spring 2018), special issue on the mobile phone.
  • Seth Perlow, “On production for digital culture: iPhone Girl, electronics assembly, and the material forms of aspiration,” Convergence 17, no. 3 (2011): 245-269.
  • Pun Ngai, Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005); with Jenny Chan, “Suicide as Protest for the New Generation of Chinese Migrant Workers: Foxconn, Global Capital, and the State,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 8, iss. 37, no. 2 (September 13, 2010); and with Mark Selden, “The politics of global production: Apple, Foxconn and China’s new working class,” New Technology, Work and Employment 28, no. 2 (July 2013): 100–115.
  • Steven Mckay, Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands?: The Politics of High-Tech Production in the Philippines (Ithaca: ILR Press, 2006).

Apple, Foxconn, and Shenzhen

Modes of Production

  • James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, Daniel Roos, The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production (New York: Free Press, 2007).
  • Kim Moody, “The Rise and Limits of Lean Production,” in Workers in a Lean World (New York: Verso, 1997): 85-113.
  • W. Bruce Allen, “The Logistics Revolution and Transportation” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 553 (September 1997), 106-116.
  • Brian Holmes, “Do Containers Dream of Electric People: The Social Form of Just-in-time Production,” Open no. 21 (2011).
  • Beth Gutelius, “Disarticulating distribution: Labor segmentation and subcontracting in global logistics,” Geoforum 60 (March 2015): 53–61.
  • Brian Ashton, “The Factory Without Walls,” _Mute_ (September 2006).
  • David E. Nye, America’s Assembly Line (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013).

Shipping, Storage, Distribution

  • Deborah Cowen, The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
    “In The Deadly Life of Logistics, Cowen traces the art and science of logistics from the battlefield to the boardroom and back. 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. All the while investigating how the military origins 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.”
  • Edna Bonacich, Jake B. Wilson, Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor, and the Logistics Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008).
    “Edna Bonacich and Jake B. Wilson look at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to examine the impact of the logistics on workers in distribution. Built around the invention of shipping containers and communications technology, the logistics ‘revolution’ has enabled retailers like Walmart and Target to sell cheap consumer products made using low-wage labor in developing countries. Shipped through an efficient, low-cost, intermodal freight system, containers move from factories in Asia to distribution centers across the United States without ever being opened. Bonacich and Wilson follow these flows, exploring the importers, container shipping companies, the ports, railroad and trucking companies, and warehouses.”


The Box

  • Marc Levinson, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).
  • Richard Pollak, The Colombo Bay (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004).
  • Craig Martin, Shipping Container (London: Bloomsbury “Object Lessons” Series, 2016).
  • Alexander Klose, The Container Principle: How a Box Changes the Way We Think, Charles Marcrum (trans) (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015).
  • Michael Shane Boyle, “Container Aesthetics: The Infrastructural Politics of Shunts The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face,” Theatre Journal 68, no. 1 (March 2016): 57-77.
  • Tim Hwang and Craid Cannon, The Container Guide (San Francisco: Infrastructure Observatory Press, 2015).
  • Allan Sekula, Fish Story, (Düsseldorf: Richter Verlag, 2002).

Critical Perspectives

  • “Logistics of Power” in Viewpoint Magazine, no. 4: “The State,” particularly: Alberto Toscano, “Lineaments of the Logistical State“; Deborah Cowen, “Disrupting Distribution: Subversion, the Social Factory, and the ‘State’ of Supply Chains“; and Sergio Bologna, “Inside Logistics: Organization, Work, Distinctions” (September-October 2014).
    As Toscano remarks, “it has long been noted that the apparatuses of control and accumulation that structure the social and material reality of circulation – transport, the energy industry and, after World War Two, “business logistics” – though born to break the bargaining power of transport workers and accumulate profits by annihilating space and depressing wages, have also, especially through their energetic dimensions, created dynamic arenas for class struggle.
  • Charmaine Chua, Martin Danyluk, Deborah Cowen, Laleh Khalili, “Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics,” Special Issue of Society and Space 36, no. 4 (August 2018); especially Martin Danyluk, “Capital’s logistical fix: Accumulation, globalization, and the survival of capitalism”
    “Since the mid-20th century, logistics has evolved into a wide-ranging science of circulation involved in planning and managing flows of innumerable kinds. In this introductory essay, we take stock of the ascendancy and proliferation of logistics, proposing a critical engagement with the field. We argue that logistics is not limited to the management of supply chains, military or corporate. Rather, it is better understood as a calculative logic and spatial practice of circulation that is at the fore of the reorganization of capitalism and war. Viewed from this perspective, the rise of logistics has transformed not only the physical movement of materials but also the very rationality by which space is organized. It has remade economic and military space according to a universalizing logic of abstract flow, exacerbating existing patterns of uneven geographical development. Drawing on the articles that make up this themed issue, we propose that a critical approach to logistics is characterized by three core commitments: (1) a rejection of the field’s self-depiction as an apolitical science of management, along with a commitment to highlighting the relations of power and acts of violence that underpin it; (2) an interest in exposing the flaws, irrationalities, and vulnerabilities of logistical regimes; and (3) an orientation toward contestation and struggle within logistical networks.”
  • Fredric Jameson, “Utopia as Replication” in Valences of the Dialectic (New York: Verso, 2009).
  • Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, especially “Fantasy in the Hold” (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2013).
  • Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute (London: Zero Books, 2015).
  • Anna Tsing, “Supply Chains and the Human Condition,” Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society 21, no. 2 (2009); The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).
  • Jasper Bernes, “Logistics, Counterlogistics, and the Communist Propspect,” Endnotes 3: Gender, Race, Class and Other Misfortunes (September 2013).
  • Brett Neilson, “Beyond Kulturkritik: Along the Supply Chain of Contemporary Capitalism,” Culture Unbound 6 (2014): 77–93; and “Five Theses on Understanding Logistics as Power” Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 13, no. 3 (December 2012) 322–339.
  • Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology (New York: Garland, 1977).

Activism and Resistance

  • Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Immanuel Ness, eds., Choke Points: Logistics Workers Disrupting the Global Supply Chain (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2018).
    “The global economy seems indomitable. Goods travel all over the globe, supplying just-in-time retail stocks, keeping consumers satisfied and businesses profitable. But there are vulnerabilities, and Choke Points reveals them—and the ways that workers are finding ways to make use of the power that those choke points afford them. Exploring a number of case studies around the world, this book uncovers a little-known network of resistance by logistics workers worldwide who are determined to contest their exploitation by the forces of global capital. Through close accounts of wildcat strikes, roadblocks, and boycotts, from South China to Southern California, the contributors build a picture of a movement that flies under the radar, but carries the potential to force dramatic change.”

Migration and Mobility

  • Anja Kanngieser, “Tracking and Tracing: Geographies of Logistical Governance and Labouring Bodies,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 31, no. 4 (August 2013): 594-610.
  • Hairong Yan, New Masters, New Servants: Migration, Development, and Women Workers in China (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).
  • T. J. Demos, The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013). // via.
  • Kwame Appiah, “The Case for Contamination,” New York Times Magazine (January 1, 2006).

History and Historiography

  • Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Knopf, 2014).
    “Cotton is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible, yet understanding its history is key to understanding the origins of modern capitalism. Sven Beckert tells the story of how, in a remarkably brief period, European entrepreneurs and powerful statesmen recast the world’s most significant manufacturing industry, combining imperial expansion and slave labor with new machines and wage workers to change the world. The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, and how the present global world came to exist.”
  • Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar and Modernity (New York: Viking, 1985).
    “Studying a single food or commodity such as sugar may seem like an incongruous project for an anthropologist who claims to work mostly with living people. Still, it is a rich subject for someone interested in the history and character of the modern world, for its importance and popularity rose together with tea, colonial slavery, and the machine era. Had it not been for the immense importance of sugar in the world history of food, and in the daily lives of so many, I would have left it alone … My work on sugar, Sweetness and Power, situates it within Western history because it was an old commodity, basic to the emergence of a global market.”
  • Deborah Cowen, “A Geography of Logistics: Market Authority and the Security of Supply Chains,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100, no. 3 (2010) and “Logistics’ Liabilities,” LIMN 1, Systemic Risk (June 2011).
  • Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein, “Commodity Chains in the World-Economy Prior to 1800,” Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 10, no. 1 (Summer 1986): 157-170.
  • Martin T. Farris, “Evolution of Academic Concerns with Transportation and Logistics,” Transportation Journal 37, no. 1 (Fall 1997): 42-50.
  • M.L. Emiliani, “Historical Lessons in Purchasing and Supplier Relationship Management,” Journal of Management History 16, no. 1, (2010): 116-136.
  • Paul L. Govekar and Michele A. Govekar, “The Parable of the Pig Iron: Using Taylor’s Story to Teach the Principles of Scientific Management,” Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice 12, no. 2 (2012).
  • Peter Drucker, “The Economy’s Dark Continent,” Fortune (April 1962).

Logistics and War

  • James A. Huston, The Sinews of War: Army Logistics, 1775-1953 (Washington DC: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1997).
  • Martin van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).
  • John A. Lynn (ed), Feeding Mars: Logistics In Western Warfare From The Middle Ages To The Present (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994).
  • Le Baron de Jomini, Précis de l’Art de la Guerre: Des Principales Combinaisons de la Stratégie, de la Grande Tactique et de la Politique Militaire (Brussels: Meline, Cans et Copagnie, 1838); Translated as The Art of War, G.H. Mendell and W.P. Craighill (trans) (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1862); see also Introductory Material to Summary of the Art of War (1854; GPO, Combat Studies Institute).
  • Manuel De Landa, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (New York: Zone Books, 1991).
  • Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (New York: Verso, 1989).
  • Derek Gregory, “Supplying war in Afghanistan: the frictions of distance,” Open Democracy (June 11, 2012).
  • Thomas Nail, Theory of the Border (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

Thing Narratives

  • Leonard E. Read, “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read, Library of Economics and Liberty (1958) and Anne Elizabeth Moore, “Milton Friedman’s Pencil,” The New Inquiry (2012).
  • Emily Green, “Memoirs of a Musical Object, Supposedly Written by Itself: It–Narrative and Eighteenth–Century Marketing,” Current Musicology 95 (2013).
  • Annie Leonard, “The Story of Stuff,” Footnote and Annotated Script, Story of Stuff Project (2007); and also “The Story of Bottled Water” (2010); “The Story of Electronics” (2011).
  • Mark Blackwell, “The It-Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Animals and Objects in Circulation,” Literature Compass 1, no. 1 (2004).
  • Christina Lupton, Heather Keenleyside, Liz Bellamy, Mark Blackwell (eds), British It-Narratives, 1750-1830 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012).
  • Bruce Robbins, “Commodity Histories,” PMLA 120, no. 2 (2005).
  • Howard Morland, The Secret That Exploded (New York: Random House, 1981).

Ethnographies of Circulation

  • Brenda Chalfin, Shea Butter Republic: State Power, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity (New York: Routledge, 2004). // via
  • Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012).

Corporations and Capitalism

  • Pietra Rivoli and Sandra Waddock, “‘First They Ignore You…’: The Time-Context Dynamic and Corporate Responsibility,” California Management Review 53, no. 2 (Winter 2011): 87-104.
    “Pietra Rivoli and Sandra Waddock acknowledge that corporate social responsibility (CSR) discussions often fall prey to a logical trap. If some socially desirable activity is profitable, then it is best described as “intelligent operation of the business.” When private profits and public welfare are aligned, CSR is irrelevant. If the socially desirable activity is not profitable, then companies will not voluntarily undertake it unless required to do so by law or regulation. The concept of CSR is “intensely confused” because in both the above cases it is not a useful construct; CSR is either irrelevant or ineffective.”
  • Anne Mayhew, Narrating the Rise of Big Business in the USA: How Economists Explain Standard Oil and Wal-Mart (New York: Routledge, 2008).
    “‘This is a story about stories and specifically about some of the stories that Americans have told themselves about corporate economic power.’ In this book, Anne Mayhew focuses on the stories surrounding the creation of Standard Oil and Wal-Mart and their founders , John D. Rockefeller and Sam Walton, combining the accounts of economists with the somewhat darker pictures painted by writers of fiction to tease out the overarching narratives associated with American big business.”
  • Raluca Dragusanu, Daniele Giovannucci, and Nathan Nunn, “The Economics of Fair Trade,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 217–236.
  • Damani James Partridge, “Activist Capitalism and Supply-Chain Citizenship: Producing Ethical Regimes and Ready-to-Wear Clothes,” Current Anthropology 52, no. s3, Corporate Lives: New Perspectives on the Social Life of the Corporate Form: Edited by Damani J. Partridge, Marina Welker, and Rebecca Hardin (Supplement to April 2011): s97-s111.

Supplier Responsibilities

  • Kim Fortun, Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2001).
  • Susan Schultz Huxman and Denice Beatty Bruce, “Toward a dynamic generic framework of apologia: A case study of Dow chemical, Vietnam, and the napalm controversy,” Communication Studies 46 nos. 1-2 (1995): 57-72.
  • Sydney Schanberg, “On the playgrounds of America, Every Kid’s Goal is to Score: In Pakistan, Where children stitch soccer balls for Six Cents an hour, the goals is to Survive,” Life Magazine (June 1996): 38-48.
  • Richard Locke, “The Promise and Perils of Globalization: The Case of Nike,” Industrial Performance Center, MIT, Working Paper (July 2002).
  • Richard Locke, Fei Qin, and Alberto Brause, “Does Monitoring Improve Labor Standards? Lessons from Nike,” Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, Working Paper no. 24 (Cambridge: John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2006).
  • Dara O’Rourke, “Smoke From a Hired Gun: A Critique of Nike’s Labor and Environmental Auditing in Vietnam as performed by Ernst & Young,” CorpWatch (November 1997).

New Materialisms and Theories of Things

  • Arjun Appadurai, The Social Life of Things (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
    “The meaning that people attribute to things necessarily derives from human transactions and motivations, particularly from how those things are used and circulated. The contributors to this volume examine how things are sold and traded in a variety of social and cultural settings, both present and past. Focusing on culturally defined aspects of exchange and socially regulated processes of circulation, the essays illuminate the ways in which people find value in things and things give value to social relations. By looking at things as if they lead social lives, the authors provide a new way to understand how value is externalized and sought after.”
  • Bill Brown, Things (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2004).
    “This book is an invitation to think about why children chew pencils; why we talk to our cars and computers; rosary beads and worry beads; the fetishism of daily life in different times and in different cultures. It is an invitation to rethink several topics of critical inquiry—camp, collage, primitivism, consumer culture, museum culture, the aesthetic object, still life, “things as they are,” Renaissance wonders, “the thing itself”—within the rubric of “things,” not in an effort to foreclose the question of what sort of things these seem to be, but rather to suggest new questions about how objects produce subjects, about the phenomenology of the material everyday, about the secret life of things.”
  • Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke, 2010).
  • Levi Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (New York: Open Humanities Press, 2011).
  • Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).
  • Daniel Miller, Stuff (Cambridge: Polity, 2009).
  • Harvey Molotch, Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers, and Many Other Things Come to Be as They Are (London: Routledge, 2003).

Computational Production

  • Ned Rossiter, “Locative Media as Logistical Media: Situating Infrastructure and the Governance of Labor in Supply-Chain Capitalism,” in Gerard Goggin and Rowan Wilken, eds., Locative Media (New York: Routledge, 2014) and also “Materialities of Software: Logistics, Labour, Infrastructure,” in P. L. Arthur & K. Bode (Eds.), Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theories (Berlin: Springer, 2014).
    “This work recasts locative media as logistical media. It is interested in how logistical infrastructure is made soft through ERP systems designed to govern the global movement of people, finance and things. Questions of securitization, control, coordination, algorithmic architectures, protocols and parameters are among those relevant to a theory of logistical media–bringing logistics, software and infrastructure together in order to elaborate the conceptual and empirical qualities of what John Durham Peters elusively terms ‘logistical media.'”
  • Benjamin Bratton, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015).
  • Ned Rossiter, Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares (New York: Routledge, 2016).
  • Vincent A. Mabert, “The Early Road to Material Requirements Planning,” Journal of Operations Management 25 (2007): 346–356.
  • Mohammad A. Rashid, Liaquat Hossain, and Jon David Patrick, “The Evolution of ERP Systems: A Historical Perspective” in Enterprise Resource Planning: Global Opportunities and Challenges (Idea Group, 2002).
  • Bill Waddell, “Farewell To APICS,” Kevin Meyer (2006).
  • Karl E. Kurbel, Enterprise Resource Planning and Supply Chain Management: Functions, Business Processes and Software for Manufacturing Companies (Berlin: Springer, Progress in IS, 2013).

Digital Supply Chains

Infrastructures & Spaces

  • Clare Lyster, Learning from Logistics: How Networks Change Our Cities (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016).
    “In the 19th century railroads and canals provided both structure and motor for city development. This role has been taken over today by the global flow of data and products, as the author argues. Flow of material and communication is the DNA of contemporary environments. This development has enormous and partially unfathomable implications for our city fabric. Logistics networks and their complex structure increasingly bear upon many urban spheres. Counter trends to the ubiquitous internet retail trade – to name one of the most palpable phenomena – are gaining momentum as well, exemplified by the criticism of labor conditions in e-commerce and the trend to buy regional products from local stores. Lyster describes the current development and its impact on architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism: Aspects such as today’s hypermobility of both products and people have repercussions in design work and create new paradigms for architecture and urban design. Concepts for the integration of these new issues are introduced by a number of exemplary urban design projects.”
  • Shannon Mattern, “Infrastructural Tourism,” Places Journal (July 2013).
  • Nicole Starosielski, “Signal Tracks,” Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus 10, no. 1 (Spring 2014); and Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, eds. Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2015).
  • Keller Easterling, Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways, and Houses in America (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999); Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005); Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (New York: Verso, 2014); and “Interchange and container: The new orgman,” Perspecta 30 (1999): 112–121.
  • Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter, “The Logistical City,” in Transit Labour: Circuits, Regions, Borders no. 3 (August 2011)
  • Brett Neilson, Ned Rossiter, and Soenke Zehle, “From flows of culture to the circuits of logistics: Borders,
    regions, labour in transit,” Transit Labour 2 (2010): 1–4.
  • Dara Orenstein, “Foreign-­Trade­ Zones­ and ­the ­Cultural ­Logic of ­Frictionless ­Production,” Radical History Review 109 (Winter 2011).
  • The FTZ as Device,” Southwest Corridor Northwest Passage (2014)
  • Rozalinda Borcila, “Riding the Zone,” Deep Routes: The Midwest in all Directions (2015).
  • Ingrid Burrington, “The Cloud is Not the TerritoryWaging Nonviolience (May 20, 2014).
  • Brian Larkin, “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure,” Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (October 2013): 327-343.
  • Susan Leigh Star, “The Ethnography of Infrastructure,” American Behavioral Scientist 43, no. 3 (November 1999): 377-391.

Histories of Infrastructures

  • Paul N. Edwards, “Infrastructure and Modernity: Force, Time, and Social Organization in the History of Sociotechnical Systems,” in Modernity and Technology, Thomas J. Misa, Philip Brey, and Andrew Feenberg, eds. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005): 185-226.
  • Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010 [1934]).
  • David E. Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992) and American Technological Sublime (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994).
  • Christopher F. Jones, Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Deviant Globalization

  • Nils Gilman, Steven Weber, & Jesse Goldhammer, Deviant Globalization (London: Continuum, 2011).
  • Nicolas Maigret & Maria Roszkowska (eds.), The Pirate Book (Ljubljana: Aksioma, 2015).


  • Dara O’Rourke, Shopping for Good (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012).

Supply Chain Management

  • Edward Frazelle, Supply Chain Strategy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001).
  • Graham Sharman, “The Rediscovery of Logistics,” Harvard Business Review 62, no. 5 (1984): 71–79.

Logistical Regulation

Reports and Representations

Law and Orders

  • The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, “KPCS Core Document,” and H.R.1584: “Clean Diamond Trade Act” (2003).
    “The Kimberley Process started when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000, to discuss ways to stop the trade in ‘conflict diamonds’ and ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.”
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, “Conflict Minerals Rule.”
    “In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which directs the Commission to issue rules requiring certain companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals if those minerals are “necessary to the functionality or production of a product” manufactured by those companies. Under the Act, those minerals include tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten. Congress enacted Section 1502 of the Act because of concerns that the exploitation and trade of conflict minerals by armed groups is helping to finance conflict in the DRC region and is contributing to an emergency humanitarian crisis.”

Logistical Media

Logistical Films

  • Allan Sekula, The Forgotten Space (2010); 112 minutes.
    “The Forgotten Space follows container cargo aboard ships, barges, trains and trucks, listening to workers, engineers, planners, politicians, and those marginalized by the global transport system. We visit displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle. And in Bilbao, we discover the most sophisticated expression of the belief that the maritime economy, and the sea itself, is somehow obsolete.”
  • Lucy Raven, China Town (2009); 51 minutes.
    “China Town traces copper mining and production from an open pit mine in Nevada to a smelter in China, where the semi-processed ore is sent to be smelted and refined. Considering what it actually means to “be wired” and in turn, to be connected, in today’s global economic system, the video follows the detailed production process that transforms raw ore into copper wire—in this case, the literal digging of a hole to China—and the generation of waste and of power that grows in both countries as byproduct.”
  • Steve McQueen, Gravesend (2007); 17 minutes.
    “The film Gravesend uses a documentary approach to focus on the mining of coltan, employed in the manufacture of cell phones, laptops and other high-tech apparatus. The film cuts between two sites: a technological, highly automated industrial plant in the West where the precious metal is processed for the final production of microelectronic parts, and the central Congo, where miners use simple shovels or their bare hands to extract, wash and collect the ore on leaves. In the Congo, the dirt and clumps of ore are barely distinguishable, while in the industrialized West, the metal is weighed in minute milligrams and cast in antiseptic surroundings.”
  • Natasha Raheja, Cast in India (2014); 26 minutes, Bengali and Hindi with English subtitles.
    “Iconic and ubiquitous, thousands of manhole covers dot the streets of New York City. Enlivening the everyday objects around us, this short documentary is a glimpse of the working lives of the men behind the manhole covers in New York City.”
  • Michael Cot Shipbreakers (2004); 73 minutes. // via
    “Shipbreakers takes the viewer into the heart of Alang, India, a vibrant shantytown where 40,000 people live and work in the most primitive conditions. Since the early ’80s, the rusting hulks of thousands of the world’s largest ships have been driven onto the remote beaches of Alang, off the Arabian Sea, to be dismantled, piece by piece. Sold for scrap, the ship owners rarely bother to abide by the UN Basel Convention, which bans shipments of transboundary waste. One worker a day, on average, dies on the job, some from explosions or falls, but many will contract cancers caused by asbestos, PCBs and other toxic substances.”
  • Jennifer Baichwal, Manufactured Landscapes (2006); 90 minutes.
    “This documentary reveals the gritty underside of industrial landscapes. Photographer Edward Burtynsky explores the subtle beauty amid the waste generated by slag heaps, dumps and factories. Memorable scenes include a Chinese iron factory where employees are berated to produce faster, and shots of children playing atop piles of dangerous debris. The contrasts between wealth and poverty are most striking in Shanghai, with new high-rises towering above old slums.”
  • David Redmon, Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005); 74 minutes.
    “The life cycle of plastic beads is traced from their manufacture at a Fuzhou, China, manufacturing facility to their extensive use by revelers at the annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Documentary filmmaker David Redmon investigates the low wages and substandard conditions endured by the factory’s workers, many of whom are young women. Candid interviews with both the Chinese workers and the Mardi Gras crowd reveal the vast economic and cultural chasm between the two.”
  • Lonnie Van Brummelen and Siebren De Haan, Monument Of Sugar: How to Use Artistic Means to Avoid Barriers (2007); 67 minutes. // via
    “Upon learning that most of Europe’s beet sugar today is consumed outside its borders, the artists devised a plan that began with purchase of that same sugar at a fraction of its domestic price. From there, they set out for Nigeria, a nation which, despite a climate wholly conducive to sugarcane cultivation, was said to be the largest importer of European sugar. Van Brummelen and de Haan’s idea was to transform that raw material into art and reimport it for an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.”
  • Erika Magnusson and Daniel Andersson, Logistics Art Project (2012); 53280 minutes.
    “A 37 day-long road movie in the true sense of the meaning. The work is about Time and Consumption. It brings to the fore what is often forgotten in our digital, ostensibly fast-paced world: the slow, physical freight transportation that underpins our economic reality. We wanted to convey it in the most direct manner possible in order to share the journey with others. That´s why we recorded the journey in real time and screen it in real time. 37 days and 37 nights, nonstop.”

Logistical Games

  • OpenTTD (2004-)
    “OpenTTD is a business simulation game in which players try to earn money via transporting passengers and freight by road, rail, water and air. It is an open source remake and expansion of the 1995 Chris Sawyer video game Transport Tycoon Deluxe.”
  • Cargonauts (2015-)
    “Part of the Logistical Worlds Project, Cargonauts envisions a logistical world of infrastructure, of transport economies, of zones and concessions, of nocturnal possibilities for sabotage and revenge.”
  • Phone Story (2011-)
    “Phone Story is an educational game about the dark side of your favorite smart phone. Follow your phone’s journey around the world and fight the market forces in a spiral of planned obsolescence.”
  • See also: Ned Rossiter, “Logistical worlds,” Cultural Studies Review 20, no. 1 (2014): 53–76.

Logistical Art

Critical Logistics Community

Syllabi and Conferences

Projects and Groups

  • Logistical Worlds: Infrastructure, Software, Labour
    “How to study China-led globalisation through infrastructural interventions? This question prompts the investigation of logistical operations that fabricate the emerging trade network known as the New Silk Road. Moving between software studies and geocultural analysis of labour regimes, the project tracks algorithmic arrangements of power across the tricontinental sites of Piraeus, Valparaíso and Kolkata… Subjectivity and labour expose the power and vulnerability of logistical worlds.”
  • Empire Logistics
    “Empire Logistics is an interactive mapping project begun in 2009. As a collaborative initiative, Empire Logistics maps the global supply chain through research that articulates the infrastructure and ‘externalized costs’—human, economic, social and environmental—of the international flow of things.”
  • Center for Land Use Interpretation
    “The Center for Land Use Interpretation is a research and education organization interested in understanding the nature and extent of human interaction with the surface of the earth, and in finding new meanings in the intentional and incidental forms that we individually and collectively create. We believe that the manmade landscape is a cultural inscription, that can be read to better understand who we are, and what we are doing.”
  • Transit-labour (X)
    “Transit-labour investigates changing patterns of labour and mobility in the whirlwind of Asian capitalist transformation. Mindful of the view of Asia as the world’s factory, this three year research project examines the role of creativity, invention and knowledge production in the new economic order being forged from the region’s capitalist centres. Particular attention is given to changing relations of culture and economy in this transition and their entanglement with the production of new subjectivities and modalities of labour.”
    “ is a website designed to have the look, feel and navigation of a familiar online store. But it’s stocked with research examining films, art, activist and other work that encourages shoppers to critically consider their relationships with those who make the things that they buy. Its purpose is to encourage careful thought and lively conversation about trade (in)justice, and to encourage and inform new work in this genre of commodity activism.”
  • The Story of Stuff Project
    “We have a problem with Stuff. We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.”
  • Unknown Fields Division
    “The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design research studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to bear witness to alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These distant landscapes – the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine, are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. In such a landscape of interwoven narratives, the studio uses film and animation to chronicle this network of hidden stories and re-imagine the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures.”
  • The Infrastructure Observatory
    “The Infrastructure Observatory is a community devoted to exploring and celebrating the infrastructural landscape. Our mission is to render visible the oft-invisible guts of modern life, and foster chapters of enthusiasts around these structures throughout the world. IO is mostly involved in organizing field trips to infrastructure sites”
  • Warehouse Workers for Justice
    “Warehouse Workers for Justice is a worker center founded in 2009 to win stable, living wage jobs with dignity for the hundreds of thousands of workers in Illinois’ logistics and distribution industry. We provide workshops so warehouse workers can educate themselves about workplace rights, unite warehouse workers to defend their rights on the job, build community support for the struggles of warehouse workers and fight for policy changes to improve the lives of warehouse workers and members of our communities.”

Broader Advocacy

  • Global Witness
    “Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system. Global Witness is campaigning to end this by carrying out hard-hitting investigations, exposing these abuses, and campaigning for change. They are independent, not-for-profit, and work with partners around the world in the fight for justice.”
  • The Enough Project
    “The Enough Project seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns.”

Other Materials and Cases

  • R. Buckminster Fuller, “The World Game: Integrative Resource Utilization Planning Tool,” World Resource Inventory (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1971).
  • Peter Stallybrass, “Marx’s Coat” in Patria Spyer (ed) Border Fetishisms: Material Objects in Unstable Spaces (London: Routledge, 1997).