Last month, the Ever Given, a golden class container ship, one of the biggest in the world, ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking traffic through one of the busiest maritime arteries in the world. Images of the ship dominated the news for multiple weeks, sparking conversations about global shipping generally and specific geopolitical importance of the Suez.
Mark Twain witnessed the construction of the Suez Canal during his 1867 Quaker City cruise. His observations from this excursion form the basis for several works from the period, including the comic travel narrative, Innocents Abroad, one of the bestselling books of Gilded Age.
Twain’s fascination with maritime transport dates back even further, of course, to his days as a riverboat pilot, and remains evident in works throughout his career.
Very few 19th-century American authors were so well positioned to witness and comment upon globalization, the complex process of military, economic, and cultural imperialism.
The 19th-century phase of globalization is among the backstories in Laleh Khalili’s Sinews of War & Trade: Shipping & Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula (Verso Book, 2020). In this episode of The American Vandal Podcast, Dr. Khalili talks about her book, as well as the grounding of the Ever Given and the history of the Suez Canal.
Laleh Khalili is Professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London. Her previous books include Time In The Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford UP, 2013) and Heroes & Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge UP, 2007).
Dr. Khalili also recently authored an OpEd on the Ever Given situation for the Washington Post, as mentioned in the episode.