Laleh Khalili

Laleh Khalili teaches at the University of Exeter. Her books include Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula and Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration. She is researching a book about the afterlives of oil in the wake of nationalisation.

Red Sea Attacks

Laleh Khalili, 22 February 2024

On​ 19 November, a helicopter operated by the Houthi-controlled Yemeni navy hovered over the vehicle carrier Galaxy Leader, which was passing through the Red Sea south of Jeddah. Masked and armed men rappelled down to the deck, raised Yemeni and Palestinian flags, and directed the ship to the nearby port of Hodeida. Galaxy Leader has remained there ever since, becoming a selfie hotspot and a...

Woke Capital

Laleh Khalili, 7 September 2023

When​ the conspiracy theorists, diehard Trumpers and (white) natalists gathered in London in May for the UK National Conservatism Conference, one fascinating sideshow was the brawl over the carcass of Margaret Thatcher. A few weeks before the event, Ryan Bourne, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute, had warned those attending the conference against ‘importing the worst...

Over the past decades, ever bigger cargo and cruise ships have moved from port to port; ever more frequent passenger and freight planes have taken off and landed. When governments began closing borders and imposing quarantine measures, seafarers were often suddenly unable to disembark or fly home.

Guano to Guns

Laleh Khalili, 16 February 2023

Among​ the most peculiar alibis the world’s maritime powers used for their programme of conquest and occupation was guano – seabird excrement rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphates, sought after as fertiliser. As with other colonial enterprises, resources were extracted to feed the maw of capital in the metropole, in this case large-scale agricultural capital. ‘All...

In Clover: What does McKinsey do?

Laleh Khalili, 15 December 2022

The primary product sold by all management consultants – both software developers and strategic organisers – is the theology of capital. This holds that workers are expendable. They can be replaced by machines, or by harder-working employees grateful they weren’t let go in the last round of redundancies. Managers are necessary to the functioning of corporations – or universities, or non-profit organisations – and the more of them the better. Long working hours and bootstrap entrepreneurialism are what give meaning to life. Meritocracies are a real thing. Free trade, laissez-faire capitalism and reduced regulation are necessary stepping stones towards the free market utopia. There is also a faith that this work is helping ‘create positive, enduring change in the world’, as McKinsey’s mission statement puts it.


John Lanchester, 22 April 2021

The shipping industry has worked hard to hide itself from view, and we have colluded with it. We don’t want to think about how that 90 per cent of everything got here. The labour of an entire industry...

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