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Inhabiting the Icon: Shipping Containers and the New Imagination of Western Space
Abstract

Abstract:

“Inhabiting the Icon” explores how the shipping container and containerization has redefined notions of the West as a transnational space through spectacle. The enormity of the container and its ability to conceal its contents has given the box a cultural cachet that is strange and unique to postmodern capitalism and the place of the West within a globalized economy. Through visual advertisements, Hollywood productions, and various contemporary artists who capture the container’s economic and mythic proportions, the essay chronicles how the container comes to evoke a new imagination of the West that regards the container integral to popular culture. Using Los Angeles as a case study, the author considers the city’s evolution from citrus culture to container culture, the rise of the new maritime cowboy, and the cultural iconography of the container to be the result of containerization’s reformulation of space and global trade. Building upon the concept of the rhizomatic West and the post-West, the container is the material representation of the rhizome that offers a new rendering of western space that is not only transnational but transgressive. The various routes, detours, destinations and utilizations of the shipping container—whether they be housing units or temporary vendor stations—contribute to a reconceptualization of western space and offer new innovative ways of approaching the postwestern narrative.



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