Accepted paper:

Fast flow, fluid security: logistics and time on Colombia's Magdalena river

Author:

Austin Zeiderman (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the plan to remake Colombia's Magdalena River as a logistics corridor. It focuses on how the smooth and uninterrupted flow of vessels and cargo along the river is secured, paying special attention to temporalities of speed and slowness.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the project to return commercial navigation to the Magdalena River—Colombia's largest inland waterway and the primary artery of trade and travel between the Andean interior and the Caribbean coast from the colonial period to the 1950s. In 2014, the Colombian government approved US$1 billion to reestablish a permanently navigable channel and resuscitate shipping traffic; inspired by this vision, private investors have already spent even more on port terminals, storage facilities, and cargo ships. This paper zeros in on the plan's objective of turning the Magdalena River into a logistics corridor, focusing on how the smooth and uninterrupted flow of vessels and cargo along the river is secured against disruptions, obstacles, and delays. Paying special attention to temporalities of speed and slowness, it tracks the material and imaginary labor of "logistification" as well as the activities of the port operators and shipping companies already moving cargo along the river. Which actors, both human and nonhuman, and acts, both intentional and unintentional, are most threatening to the operation of the logistics corridor and what security protocols and technologies are used to manage them? How do the security problems that plagued ports and shipping in the past compare to those existing today? And what do these efforts to reconfigure the Magdalena River tell us about the place of logistics, infrastructural environments, and supply chain security within contemporary capitalism at large?

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Logistics, time and environment