On the map of global trade, China is now the factory of the world. A parade of ships full of raw commodities—iron ore, coal, oil—arrive in its ports, and fleets of container ships leave with manufactured goods in all directions. The oil that fuels China’s manufacturing comes primarily from the Arabian peninsula. Much of the material shipped from China are transported through the ports of Arabian peninsula, Dubai’s Jabal Ali port foremost among them. China’s “maritime silk road” flanks the peninsula on all sides.
Sinews of War and Trade is the story of what the making of new ports and shipping infrastructure has meant not only for the Arabian peninsula itself, but for the region and the world beyond. The book is an account of how maritime transportation is not simply an enabling companion of trade, but central to the very fabric of global capitalism. The ports that serve maritime trade, logistics, and hydrocarbon transport create racialised hierarchies of labour, engineer the lived environment, aid the accumulation of capital regionally and globally, and carry forward colonial regimes of profit, law and administration.
“If the maritime industry represents the circulatory system of the modern global economy, then Laleh Khalili has offered us a uniquely insightful forensic assessment of how this capillary system took shape through history and the central role played by ports on the Arabian Peninsula. Sinews of War and Trade makes clear that these ports have been far more than just tacit intersections of international trade. They have played and continue to play a vital role in framing racial labour hierarchies, accumulating capital in specific hands, and reinforcing colonial regimes of profit, law and administration. Both lucid and nuanced, the book offers a masterful study in the ways that violence and security as well as licit and illicit trade, get negotiated in and by these ports. This is one of those rare pieces of academic research that is at once readable and accessible for the lay public while also making a genuine contribution to the relevant historical scholarship.”
“Laleh Khalili’s fascinating new book opens the window on another world, hidden in plain sight, a shadow world of ports and container ships that holds a key to the often violent workings of contemporary capitalism. To read Sinews of War and Trade is to understand the truth of Derek Walcott’s observation that ‘the sea is history.’”
“In this long awaited book Laleh Khalili makes brilliant contributions to every subject she touches: maritime history, labor history, military history, and the history of global capitalism. Readers will delight in the book's originality -- there is truly nothing else like it.”
“Laleh Khalili is our Ismael, taking us on a fascinating journey under the surface of war and trade, into its world of infrastructure, the chains that bind humanity because of capitalism’s maddening search for the white whale of endless profit. Centred on the Arabian Peninsula, the story of big ships and bigger egos resonates across the oceans from port to port, an oily residue marking the ugliness of our times.”
“[Laleh Khalili] gives a nuanced account of many seas and lands. Written with meticulous attention to historical details, Khalili maps global capitalist trends that drew the shores of the Arabian Peninsula into global markets, bringing commodities, labour, pilgrims and adventurers to mark the history of a region that only began to attract attention with the discovery of oil. This book takes us back to old maritime trade, ports and people who shaped the history of the region. Much of this history is still very relevant to the present.”
“In this extraordinary work, Laleh Khalili takes us on an epic journey that is at once painfully timely and powerfully timeless. Centering this story of imperial trade and war on the Arabian Peninsula, Khalili illuminates how the very making of land and legal categories, the transformation of borders, the political and economic rights of workers, and entire planetary ecologies are remade through the ruthless impetus to move cargo and commodities overseas. The scale of this book is breathtaking but the story is intimate and expertly crafted, moving from entire coast lines to city streets and singular bodily movements. This is a poetry of place that exposes the power and violence of circulatory infrastructures of war and trade, while always insisting that another maritime world is possible.”
“Vividly evocative...rich in detail, [Khalili brings] the subject matter to life with powerful immediacy.”
“Analysis of how international systems actually work, like Laleh Khalili’s study of maritime trade, uncovers a different world. The comforting phrases of international affairs in the face of policed seas, oligopolistic firms in strategic alliances with national governments, military-backed colonial dependencies and surveillance hegemony are mere fantasies distracting us from the realities of power and capital.”
“Little has been written about the sea trade in the Gulf. Laleh Khalili’s latest book explores the complex realities that drive this massive economy.”