Commodities and Culture in the Colonial World, 1851-1914: Travel, Technology and Transformation

A Leverhulme Trust International Network

The aim of this international network is to analyse and understand the transformation of local cultures in the context of trans-national interaction between 1851 and 1914. In this period trans-national contact intensified in the context of factors such as increased demographic mobility, free trade, the accelerated production and consumption of new kinds of goods, technological innovation, and new modes of print, publication and communication. By looking at the processes of commodity production, transportation, and consumption, and the flows of knowledge, technologies, and materials both within local contexts and through the intercontinental networks that linked them, we wish to analyse the distinctive ways in which cultures responded to their new conditions.

The network brings together an international group of scholars who work on different geographical locations, and who take diverse yet complimentary methodological approaches. The core of our group is based in literary and cultural studies, yet all of us build on the insights of historians, anthropologists and geographers, and all study the impact of colonialism, emigration, and global trade on texts and artifacts produced and consumed across the world.  The network will enable an interdisciplinary, intercontinental exchange of expertise, and provide a context in which to examine the methodological models and conceptual frameworks that operate within our own and other disciplines.

In order to produce a more extensive coverage than has been attempted hitherto outside single-discipline approaches, we will concentrate attention on five world cities – London, New York, Kolkata, Sydney and Cape Town. All were significant administrative and cultural centres, centres of communication, trade and transportation, and all were hubs within and between complex regional and international networks.

We have identified three topics judged to be richest in terms of current work, and with greatest potential to develop new directions for the discipline: Commodities in Motion; Commodities and Affect; and Production, Consumption and Population Flows. These will provide the focus for three sequenced international workshops. We will also host a training workshop for postgraduates and early career researchers in methods and techniques in the colonial archive.

© 2011 Commodities and Culture

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