The Suez Canal and Actually Existing Capitalism: Ten Attributes beyond “The World’s Jugular Vein” | Aaron Jakes

Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
Middle Eastern Studies Forum
Encina Commons
615 Crothers Way, Stanford, CA 94305

In recent years, disruptions to the flow of maritime traffic—most notably the Ever Given debacle of spring 2021 and the more recent attacks by Yemen’s Ansar Allah—have prompted a revival of interested in the Suez Canal. The high drama of these blockages has tended to reinforce common understandings of the waterway as a major conduit of global commercial circulation, “the world’s jugular vein.” This lecture will explore how such vascular metaphors obscure the multitude of other roles the Suez Canal has played as an infrastructure of global inequalities over the past two centuries. 

Aaron G. Jakes is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and the Committee on Environment, Geography, and Urbanization at the University of Chicago, where he teaches broadly on histories of the modern Middle East and South Asia, environmental history, and the historical geography of capitalism. He received his PhD from New York University’s Joint Program in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and prior to moving to Chicago in fall 2022, he taught for seven years at The New School. His first book, Egypt’s Occupation: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism was published by Stanford University Press in 2020. He is currently at work on two book-length projects. The first, tentatively entitled “Tilted Waters: The World the Suez Canal Made,” is the first book-length study of the Canal’s history from its origins to the present to be written in English in more than half a century. The second is an interdisciplinary collaboration with the geographer Jason W. Moore (Binghamton) and the sociologist Neil Brenner (UChicago), currently entitled “Hidden Abodes of the ‘Great Acceleration’: Fossil Metabolism, Infrastructure, and the Climate/Nature Crisis.” 

Aaron Jakes Suez Flier