Hege Høyer Leivestad: The Port Revisited—Cargo capitalism at the Strait of Gibraltar

Hege Høyer Leivestad (Stockholm University) gave on 12.11.2021 a paper entitled “The Port Revisited: Cargo capitalism at the Strait of Gibraltar”.

In line with a cost-efficient ‘just-in-time’ logic, commodities travel the world along maritime routes and port infrastructures. A growing body of literature in the social sciences has (re)turned to maritime space, engaging with the ‘dark side’ of globalisation and the unequal power relations coming as a result of the logistics revolution. In this paper I turn to a European container hub, showing how pasts, presents and futures of a port town are transformed by what I call ‘cargo capitalism’. The empirical focus of this talk lies on the Spanish Port of Algeciras Bay, a so-called transshipment hub at the Strait of Gibraltar – where only 14 kilometres separate Europe and Africa at the narrowest point. In Algeciras, maritime logistics has since the 1990s created a thriving cargo economy, in an area otherwise characterized by high unemployment rates and shadow economies. But the port’s dependence on multinational companies’ trade routes and infrastructural investments makes cargo a contested future in Europe’s southern borderlands. By engaging with how port workers, logistics managers, port bureaucrats and local residents in Algeciras relate to the presence of cargo, I show in this talk how logistics both channels and blocks imaginations of economic and social futures.



Hege Høyer Leivestad is Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. Leivestad also works as a Researcher in the ERC funded project PORTS at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. She is the author of the monograph Caravans: Lives on Wheels in Contemporary Europe (Bloomsbury 2018). Her current book project The Port: Life and Labour at a Maritime Crossroads, is based on extensive fieldwork in a Spanish container port.