Seizing the Means of Distribution: Power Geometries and Political Resistance in Coco Solo, Panama

Authors: Martin Danyluk*, University of Nottingham
Topics: Global Change, Economic Geography, Latin America
Keywords: Logistics, blockades, circulation, globalization, Panama
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Roosevelt 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper offers a series of reflections on the new forms of economic organization, geometries of power, and prospects for political resistance that are taking shape in the age of logistics. Drawing on research conducted in the now-defunct squatter community of Coco Solo, Panama—located a stone’s throw from the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal—I explore the struggles, desires, and survival strategies of people living on the margins of Panama’s transit economy and persistently excluded from its benefits. Beginning in the 1990s, as the country’s development was reoriented to cater to the needs of global merchants and shipping lines, Coco Solo found itself encircled by container ports, logistics parks, and fuel-storage tanks; eventually the community itself was targeted for demolition to make way for the expansion of an adjacent container terminal. In 2011, in the face of steadily deteriorating living conditions, years of stigmatization and government neglect, and the looming uncertainty of displacement, Coco Solo residents blocked the road into the neighbourhood—which is also the only truck access to two of Panama’s busiest ports. In this way, as the urban environment around them was reconfigured to promote the smooth, efficient circulation of commodities, community members used their strategic geographic location as a point of leverage, consciously disrupting those commodity flows in order to bolster their claims. I draw on the Coco Solo case for assistance in outlining some theoretical and strategic considerations regarding the potential power of “circulation struggles” as well as their practical limitations.

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