Ports Matter: Supply Chain Logics and the Sociocultural Context of Infrastructure in Port Studies

in Mobility in History
Janell RothenbergGeorge Washington University

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Viewed from a distance, a large container port looks like any other. Terminals and stacked containers are marked by a narrowing set of multinational operators and shipping companies. Fences project promises of security and safety that are often enacted by the local hires of global security firms. Perhaps longshoremen are visible locking a container into place aboard a vessel, although the docks of contemporary container terminals are more notable for the seeming lack of men at work. Critical scholars of supply chains are revealing the global logics behind such visible similarities in port economy and governance. While this work responds to the call of John Shaw and James Sidaway to recognize how “[ports] matter beyond being entities in and of themselves,” ports are also shaped by more proximate, sociocultural logics.

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