supplystudies

Logistics as Conspiracy

The resurgent impact of the Covid-19 delta variant in Fall 2021 has amplified the pandemic’s supply chain disruptions. Stock has run out. Shipments have slowed. Prices have risen. Consumer demand is at levels that – in some areas – exceed all prior demand, with temporary price fluctuations giving way to rampant inflation. In this context, an absence of clear explanations for uneven distribution has provided a formative canvas for false, misleading and sometimes dangerous claims about the state of global supply. Refracting an array of imaginaries built around the obtuse operations of global logistics, narratives surrounding the supply chain have become a site for contested claims about the interconnected nature of contemporary life. Dislocated images of empty shelves circulate, their ubiquitous use in polarized political debates such that they have been flagged as misinformation. Photographs of vinyl sheets and cardboard inserts in awkward approximation of absent goods are mocked by some, but suggest to others signs of deliberate subterfuge. Even mundane maritime maps are assembled as evidence of – commenters claim – countries “under attack.”

Manifest / Manifesto: Toward Supply Chain Reconciliation

Here the manifest becomes an accounting of injuries. I think this provides a better model for unraveling the global supply chain than transparency. Rather than allow transparency to remain as a form of corporate responsibility, with “mapping the supply chain” an exercise in corporate power, “making out its manifest” might now attempt to account for our value, and our injuries. It records the places where labor has been exploited, where the earth has been plundered, where waste overruns into rivers, and poison bleeds into the air. It is not a proclamation from on high, but an admonition from below. Not an attempt at supply chain resilience, but an opportunity for supply chain reconciliation.

Material Epistemologies of the (Mobile) Telephone

This article examines the ways of knowing that govern public constructions of knowledge in the manufacture of the mobile phone—its cultural meaning, sociality of labor, and environmental consequences. It does so to consider the “material epistemology” of the mobile phone, the way in which one comes to know these devices, especially through the devices themselves. In modern manufacture, the incorporation of corporate supplier audits and investigative reporting into public discourse reveals an epistemology of production that is primarily imagined, rather than historically and ethnographically realized. Although the public epistemology of the mobile supply chain is built from the model of the telephone and telegraph, these networks were themselves mystified, displaced, and obscured. This is illustrated by examining material and conceptual differences between the historic supply chain of the telephone manufacturer Western Electric, and those imagined for contemporary companies like Apple.

Commanding Supply

Supply & Command is a wrap. I wanted to make this post to thank all of the presenters and attendees for joining us to share their wonderful work, and for thinking with us on the relationship between logistics, labor, and media. It was an incredibly motivating and intellectually invigorating two days, full of insightful discussions …

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Supply Chains as Civic Media

Knowing where things come from is a fundamental part of humanity. Things are very different when they come from different places. We might speak of terroir as the earth in the food, the unique sense of locale imparting an irreplaceable difference that cannot be found in another place. The provenance of a work tells us …

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