‘Commodities and Affect’ Kolkata January 2011

Hosted by the Centre of Advanced Study in English, Jadavpur University, in collaboration with the Victoria Memorial Hall and the National Library, Kolkata.

12-14 January 2011

This Workshop focuses upon the ways in which the circulation, exchange and production of new kinds of commodities in the colonial world impacted emotional and affective lives, leading to radical transformations in society and culture. Clocks, photographs, textiles, metalwork, furniture, printed books, stationery, umbrellas, shoes, art-objects, musical instruments, machinery, labour, zoological specimens, armaments, tea, tobacco, opium, medicines – commodities under these and many other descriptions flowed from metropolitan centres to the colonies, and from the colonies to the metropolis, in a process that decisively altered ways of life in both. Railways, posts and telegraphs, and shipping networks set up circuits of movement and exchange that had a profound influence upon the notionally ‘inner’ realm of emotion and feeling. These alterations are recorded above all in literature, in the visual and plastic arts, and in personal documents like letters and photographs. The Workshop’s task will be to explore this apparently hidden realm of ‘affect’, and to consider the relations between a history of commodities and a history of emotions. Our themes will include:

  • The affective life of objects in the colonial world
  • ‘Wonder’ as commodity: exhibitions, museums, zoos
  • The domestic interior as a site of feeling
  • Public emotion and the politics of production: the swadeshi movement
  • The literary record: emotions and things
  • Collectors and connoisseurs: the values of objects
  • ‘The work of art in an age of mechanical reproduction’
  • Material culture: food, furniture, objets d’art
  • Photography and visual culture: capturing space, freezing time
  • ‘The mental and the material’: commodities and personal histories
  • Motion and emotion: ships, railways, motor-cars
  • ‘The printing-press as an agent of change’

Full Programme

The Workshop Programme is available here

Images and Media

News coverage and images from the workshop

© 2011 Commodities and Culture

Website: DDH