In the Wake of Logistics: Traffic on Colombia's "Fluvial Expressway"

When and Where

Thursday, April 25, 2019 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street


Professor Austin Zeiderman


Professor Austin Zeiderman
London School of Economics

The Perijá is one of a handful of commercial riverboats moving cargo along Colombia’s Magdalena River between the Andean interior and the Caribbean sea. A key component of the infrastructural network linking Colombia to overseas markets, the Perijá’s operations are calibrated by the logic of logistics, which seeks to control the circulation of goods through space, on time. The 630-kilometer stretch of navigable river has been dubbed an autopista fluvial (fluvial expressway), and the flow of goods and vessels along this logistics corridor depends on a historically racialized labor regime. Based on fieldwork conducted aboard the Perijá, and on accounts of riverboat work since the colonial period, this paper connects two interrelated definitions of traffic (the exchange of merchandise and the expropriation of unfree labour) at the heart of capitalist modernity. If the slave ship and the Middle Passage are foundational moments of modern logistics, the commercial riverboat and other logistical infrastructures remain key sites for analyzing the global economic order. Pursuing this line of inquiry from the deck of the Perijá allows us to position ourselves analytically, to paraphrase Christina Sharpe, in the wake of logistics—that is, to examine the linkages between the logistics industry and the overlapping traffic patterns that have long underpinned racial capitalism in the Americas


170 St. George Street