The Chinese Logistical Sublime and Its Wasted Remains

“The Senate celebrates the remarkable contributions of Malcolm P. McLean to the development of a new era of trade and commerce in the United States through the containerization of cargo [and] … recognizes the the crucial role that containerization has played in the modernization of shipping practices, and the economy of the United States…” – United States of America Congressional Record Proceedings and Debates of the 109th Congress Second Session Vol. 152 Part 5

“If space junk is the human debris that litters the universe, junkspace is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. The built (more about that later) product of modernization is not modern architecture but junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course, or more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fallout. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally. Junkspace is its apotheosis, or meltdown… Although its individual parts are the outcome of brilliant inventions, hypertechnical, lucidly planned by human intelligence, imagination, and infinite computation, their sum spells the end of Enlightenment, its resurrection as farce, a low-grade purgatory.” – Rem Koolhaas, “Junkspace”

The Disorder Of Things

Sent from Taipei, the last post in a container ship ethnography. The entire series can be viewed here.


“We cannot think of a time that is oceanless
Or of an ocean not littered with wastage”
– T. S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA An APL vessel heads out of the port of Hong Kong

On our thirteenth day at sea, after having been battered by 6 meter waves and snow, gale-force winds and storm, having watched the ship’s skeleton snake and bend with the force of rough seas from within the depths of its passageways, I woke up on a calm, quiet morning to a sea that had turned a lighter shade of blue. From my porthole, delighted, I watched as seagulls weaved in an out of the wind currents above the containers, seaweed merrily skimmed the surface of the ocean, and fishing vessels began dotting the horizon. Land was near. Less…

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2 Responses to The Chinese Logistical Sublime and Its Wasted Remains

  1. Charmaine Chua says:

    These preceding quotes you’ve attached to my piece are seriously gold! Thanks for adding dimension. P.s. I’ve been following some of your writing – it’s wonderful.

    • edmundberger says:

      Hi Charmaine, thanks for the kind words about my writings, but more importantly, thank you for the series on your travels aboard the “Ever Cthulhu”… it’s a wonderfully written ethnography, and adds a great deal towards overcoming the theoretical misstep concerning ‘immaterial labor’. Logistics, supply-chains, and their relations to uneven development are the essential things to grapple with when considering the actual tension-wrought infrastructures of neoliberalism, so I think this is precisely the kind of critical research that needs to be done right now!

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