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, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration and The Corporeal Life of Seafaring.

Showing Off: Superyachts

Laleh Khalili, 9 May 2024

According​ to a gushing photo-essay published in Life magazine in 1969, Prince Karim Aga Khan was an ‘outrageously wealthy young man, written off by many as a mere playboy’, who had proved his critics wrong with a display of business acumen – a vast real-estate venture in Sardinia. Sailing across the Mediterranean on one of his yachts, the Aga Khan had fallen in love with...

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...


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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