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workshop5 report

Material Culture and Materialities Across the World

Workshop 5, Teaching Grid, Library, University of Warwick
9th May, 2008


12.30 – 1.00 Lunch

1.00 – 1.45

Ann Smart Martin (IAS Fellow, Warwick)

Methodological Introduction: 'Suckey's Mirror: Material Culture at Global/Local'
Reading: Timothy J. Shannon, “Queequeg’s Tomahawk: A Cultural Biography, 1750-1900,” Ethnohistory 52, no. 3 (2005), 589-633.

1.45 -2.00

Giorgio Riello (Dept of History, Warwick)

The Material Culture of Early Modern Connections – A Project

Reading:Donald Quataert (ed.), Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550 – 1922: An Introduction (Albany,2000), introduction. (photocopies available)


Glenn Adamson (Research Dept, V&A)

Material Encounters
Reading: Sujit Sivvasundaram, 'Trading Knowledge: The East India Company's Elephants in India and Britain', H, 48/1 (2005), pp. 27-63.

Timon Screech, “Dressing Samuel Pepys: Japanese Garments and International Diplomacy in the Edo Period,” Orientations (February 2002), pp. 50-57. (photocopies available)

2.45 -3.15 Coffee/Tea

3.15 - 4.00

Phillippa Hubbard (Dept. of History, Warwick)

Colours and Words
Reading: Robert Finlay, ‘Weaving the Rainbow: Visions of Colour in World History’, Journal of World History, 18/4 (2007), pp. 383-431.
Craig Clunas, Empire of great brightness: visual and material cultures of Ming China,1368-1644 (London, 2007), pp. 84-111: ch. 3 ‘ The Word on the Streets: Cultures of Texts’. (photocopies available)


Emma Markiewicz (National Archive and Warwick)

Reading: Jeremy Prestholt, Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization (Berkeley, 2008), introduction; and ch.3 ‘The Global Repercussions of Consumerism: East African Consumers and Industrialization’, also published in American Historical Review, 109/3 (2004), pp. 755-782.

Frank Dikotter, Exotic Commodities: Modern Objects and Everyday Life in China ( new York, 2007), also published as Things Modern: Material Culture and everyday Life in China (London, 2007), introduction and ch. 1 (photocopies available).

4.30 -5.00

Summing Up



Prof. Ann Smart Martin, (IAS Fellow, Warwick)
Giorgio Riello, (Warwick)
Phillippa Hubbard, (Warwick)
Glenn Adamson, (V&A)
Emma Markiewicz, (Warwick)

Maxine Berg, (Dept. of History, Warwick)
Helen Clifford, (Warwick)


Michael Hatt, (Warwick)
Christine Guth, (V&A)
Tim McEvoy, (Warwick)
Lorraine Long, (Warwick)
Sarah Easterby-Smith, (Warwick)
Richard Parker, (Warwick)
Luca Mola, (Warwick)
Ana Oterocleves, (Oxford)
Victoria Powell, (V&A)
Livia Rezende, (V&A)
Denise Hagstromer, (V&A)
Phillip Gibb, (V&A)
Emily Hall, (V&A)

1. Ann Smart Martin (IAS Fellow, Warwick) : Methodological Introduction: 'Suckey's Mirror: Material Culture at Global/Local'

The Notion of ‘Bling’ - an idea and a set of things, compare with ‘chav’ - idea from Stefan Osdene’s thesis, a careful, sophisticated, nuanced study of th contemporary phenomemnon of bling, which he describes as ‘both a terminology and a set of artifactual forms that convey status within a specific musical subculture’. This wrok straddle the edge of visual and material culutre, critical theory and sociological understanding; it asks an understanding of the genesis and growth of a new subculture that is in some ways the essence of contemporary post-modernity. It is a consumer, media and art fantasy whose importance springs from youth sub-culture that appropriates and re-works very traditional symbols of status in a hyper-inflated way. Bling a topic for rich study.

Open with this because contains some of the very essences of th paradoxical ways we can read global material culture, It deserves our closest reading of those who create and practice such ideas. It could be read as an essentially local phenomenon. A creative subculture like the study of punk by Dick Hebdidge. It could be a symbolic study; massively be-jewelled men, surely more royal than macho - It has a history, from pimps to blaxploitation filsm of the 1970s ... It has an ethnography - particular performers telling its meaniong to them, For one it is arrival; for another it is all eyes on you, for a third getting women. We can recognise the status of competition, the excessive wealth, the accoutrements of glitz, cars and women, but music and media has made it something else. While not perfectly understood it is global.

My idea for a kick off this afternoon was to line us some categroes of pathways in which material culture might be conceived of in some global way. I am an advocate of object study which I teach as a core concept in the mateiral culture program at the University of Wisconsin-Madsn. It is a way of close looking and broad analysis - of asking a series of questions drawn from a particular artifact that hoeopfully leads somewhere. In my article ‘Magical, Mythical, Praical and Sublime’ (1st vol. of journal Ceramic in America) I proposed a kind of matrix of questions about trade, time, distance, designing, making, vending and using, ultimately possibly leading to meaning.

I asked you to read Shannon’ study of the pipe tomahawk for several reasons - one to balance out the omissio of the Americas - but it is also a methodological and interdisciplinary tour de force, moving carefully from whart do we know to how do we know, destroying a few myths on the way. He uses archaeological evidence and blends trade documents and anecdotal accounts to build a case that these atifacts showed how people do exactly what the more oblique or theorietical readings could only predict or opine. So here we have an article of hybridity, blending to make something new. One part was a hatchet, a multi-use blade made an iconoc tomahawk, something traded that Europea merchants thought surely would please their market of fur traders. If Shannon is right, it was a blacksmith geographically well-placed to meet the demand for a new kind of thing one that met he needs and desires of native peoples - and a use never imagined by the makers and burnishers of blades. The pipe function was added to -now the artifact had 2 important modalities - work and relaxation. However, the white American in the novel Moby Dick only sees the blad and does not understand how it was also the emblem of sociability (Key ring. bottle opener - also vaguely oppositional). I propose 2nd category - contains the pieces of globalism - its very materiality. This is more common than we used to think. As we break open our understanding of trade we see the extraordinary exploration of new parts of the world that gave artisans in one part of the world new ways to make and ornament (cf Pomerantz)

1. Objects that combine parts of teh world - they are materialistically global
eg. Chest made up of mirrored bits like facets of jewels, leather, textile, oak, wainscot not local, padauak - Africanor Asian wood, snakewood. Probably made and used in Britian

e.g Chest - Charleston a desk and bookcase, made out of global components, Salem Mass Coastline venture trade for furniture, African labour, cobol for varnish.

2. Global movement of workers, e.g Huguenots

3. Global trade of commodities or more precisely globally-traded commosities which akes if active and specific trade moving things around the world, the comets - move faster, slower, different diretions, lose meanings, add meanings, BUT why are they traded? Karl Marx - commodity a concealed labour, a thing and not a thig at all. For Marx power was to elucidate the exchange value, a comodity is always related to other commodiies ... is it affordable, is it available? But missed fetichismthrough which objkects captivate us, fasciante us, compel us to have a relation with them. In democracy we are all anonymity, rule of uniformity. How can identity be formed when all objects are the same?

I started making a list from the readings

Things are desirable because they are exotic, foreign, modern, better, in fashion, in fashion somewhere else, new, different & rare, do something better, BUT our logic falters, better to who and why?

E.g. lacquerware cabinet - Orientalism lacquers revered kind of arcanum, impentrable magic, West did not have necessary lacquers, better because copied and improved upon, better because beautiful, but what if the very notion of the eye for beauty is different - light. what can be the most different experience of something in particular new context

The final global commodity, the final Ur thing, LIGHT. The epxerience of something is dependent on many things, its colour is seen through a specilaised physiological apparatus ... but changing uses of light reach out in manifold ways. e.g. use of mosque lamp - push important techical innovations in Venice.

Whale oil - the general and the specific, back to Moby Dick


Glenn Adamson: Problem of looking at ‘special’ objects, should you prioritise quality/ objects with cultural capital for study or suppress this instinct?

Giorgio Riello: But useful means of creating a narative, a story that allow you to see progression - tomahawk a multiplicity -

Glenn Adamson - But what about e.g Japanese made Christian icons made in 17th and 18th century for people to step on to prove not a zealot - prove OK to trade with - opposite of the tomahawk. The divisions between the everyday and the elite. What stories are these objects allowed to tell - a history of globalization should not be base don exceptions?

Ann Smart Martin: The difficulty of finding out if object common or not common, the point is what happens if you place an object in a position to do this.

Michael Hatt: All this a disciplinary issue - the aesthetic - exemplary cultural value more complex not equal more important.

Giorgio Riello: What important here is the ‘exceptional’ versus ‘ word of goods’.

2. Giorgio Riello (Dept of History, Warwick) : The Material Culture of Early Modern Connections – A Project

Describes project with Anna Gerritsen, 1500-1800 Early Modern - but this time period not mean much outside Europe. Try to create a dialogue with other schoalrs to bring them together with curators from Istabul/India/China.

At Warwick give you money to work out how project can be done, not for it - this project involves travelling and making contact with potential partners - what they ask is to avoid Eurocentric view -- this a 5-6 year long process In China and India difficult to make contact with curators, cannot afford to go beyond boundaries of the National and Nationalism, and difficult to come to West. E.g. Celadon wares at Topkapi, can’t afrod to display (best pieces in West in Museums and Collections).

Project consider 5 themes

1. Producing material culture for global markets
2. Sites and Nodes (spaces) of material culutre - that shape excahnge, the geographical/spatial

3. Global material culutre in everyday living - how impact on people across Eurasia - how change rituals of everyday e.g chocolate and tea - Kimono made of Indian printed cotton for everyday wear in 17th Japan.
4. How material culutre interpreted - the visualisation of maeral culutre, create a ‘common vision’ e,g very little green in Islamic culutre
5. Global Object Knowledge - cultural context of reception e.g. transmission of techology of making blue - in what way are things new? Previous studies tend to be quantiative.

Show picture of Land Deed from Istanbul, totally different from equivalent in West, a work of art,

Shift to polycentric views. Most research European and in Euopean archives, privileged and particular. Quotes exhibition Istanbul, Isfahan and Delhi, 3 cities - at Louvre, Europe appear minimally, in connection wth carpets

Look at individual localities, e.g. Goa

Final problem - the type of ideas used, or not used. Global history provides a set of tools and concepts, how is this project in line or not with this development, question of divergence. - are objects that create connections the atypical and exceptional, perhaps should look at material culture that has no impact outside area of manufacture/consumption. Pomerantz - Europe and Asia similar until 18th c then different, Europe takes a different path. Divergence rather than convergence.

V&A student: Commodification of Nature - in Brazil quantative impact of some objects small but qualitative impact huge.

Luca Mola: Why not inlcude America?

Michael Hatt: In material culture and European life, how conceive of the ‘everyday”?

Ann Smart Martin: Importance of experiental part of object

Giorgio Riello: Importance of objects that are not there, e.g fashion - acquire idea, but not actually a have the object - impact of an object without it actually moving.

Maxine Berg: For example brass trade catalogues.

3. Glenn Adamson (Research Dept, V&A); Material Encounters

On Objects and Knowledge as points of useful friction within a global design history

1) The intrinsic properties of objects

framing history around an object (eg., “the object of the elephant”) allows for a multivalent, non-perspectival historical account. The object as a neutral/flexible term in between cultural positions.
Gift giving – constrained by the physical traits of the object. (Textiles light and highly ocncentrated in value, like metalwork; elephants expensive and valuable, but move themselves; porcelain in ships’ holds)
Connoisseurship. Need to recapture period notions of quality and aesthetics.

2) Indigenous knowledge (IK)

Definition of term. See recent work by Jude Fernando, Arun Agrawal
IK vs. universal knowledge (vernacular, local mythic vs. Christianity, science, capital, empire) – local vs. universal applicability
Efficacy vs. expertise.
“cut and pasted” knowledge – global design history must reflect reality of mentalité which in the early modern period might involve a background of Universalism in which IK ‘nuggets’ float like bits in a stew

undecidability of the local from exterior position (see Arjun Appadurai on “search vs. re-search”) – we must create narratives, but these are constrained by phenomena like the above.


Michael Hatt: IK use term ‘knowledge’ but what is it, -belief, fact, observation’ - conceptually disasterous area, a kind of inverted attack on universlaim IK versus Universal - local & vernacular, these grand categories problematic - Knowledge masks a range of meanigns, efficacy on non-religious concepts. IK believe to be superior. Needs to be re-conceived to amke sense. Make a difference between knowledge and ‘what counts as knowledge’.

Maxine Berg: Also Useful Knowledge; now anachronistic to divide science and techology, important to connect 2 spe. categories, take in 17th and 18th century terms, not codifcation ok knowledge, IK opens up that divide again, WHAT gives the push, makes the change, tied up with types of codification.

Micahel Hatt: Material culutre a good site for this debate - diff of IK and copnneciton with beief, faith, myth

Glenn Adamson: IK helpful as get us into a ‘site’

Michael Hatt: Question of truth - is it a universal truth or a site of belief

Glenn Adamson : Descriptive styles which are cultral. Metaphor of the ‘stew’ liquid the universal part which holds it together, holds bits of IK together. e.g understanding craze for porcelain.

4. Phillippa Hubbard (Dept. of History, Warwick): Colour and Words

Robert Finlay, Weaving the Rainbow: Visions of Colour in World History

1. Interesting article exploring perceptions, ideas and values about
colour, what Finlay describes as 'colour vision', throughout the historiesof Eurasian societies – Japan, China, West Asia and Europe.

He particularly wants to explore why we associate colours with specific perceptions, prejudices and how and why these ideas form nationally or regionally. His exploration is global, covering not only vast geographic space, but also vast time, starting with the Cambrian explosion, 543 million years ago. He introduces practical background about how colour first came into existence and progressed. Strong biological, environmental determinants. Evolutionary process.

This was a really successful way of introducing the topic and made me want to read on. Strong opening because it really brought home how important colour is in human history and experience of the world. Set up the discussion as a worthy topic of discussion. As an important part of human evolution it's necessary to consider cultural responses to colour and how these have developed throughout history.

2. He prefaces his discussion of different countries/region/continents with an overview of the history of colour vision. This was a nice way of starting before moving onto the specific, brought the project some coherence.

He emphasized how brilliant colour was rare in the premodern world and therefore that this sort of history requires an imaginative leap. Today, we are bombarded with it daily, and this sort of history requires us to think about when intense colour had been rare or not experienced at all.

He explains that evolutionary pressure is the common theme between cultures here and why colour preferences and most commonly named colours emerge across vastly different cultures.
Talks a little about colour semantics. How associative words emerge alongside prejudices.

In this opening summary I think he clearly communicates that despite peoples colour spectrum being vastly less than ours in the past, people were conscious of colour and its associative properties, this especially evident through the words used to describe colours in early societies. And also through laws such as sumptuary legislation that made people aware of the associative properties of colour. This is why colour became symbolic and significant in a way it isn't today. It implies social rank, political and religious allegiances, symbolic days in a much more obvious way than today.

Common to early societies was also the fear of strong colour. It was
generally seen as indulgent, feminine and irrational.

Finlay then moves on to locate this discussion of colour vision within geographic area. Despite themes common to most early societies, very individual responses emerged.

3. He prefaces his discussion of individual countries by discussing
individual human experience and how we don't all experience colour the same. 'Colour is the common experience of humanity yet remains existentially subjective.' (401). rather than detracting from his argument on the importance of colour it elevates it by asking why did national persceptives and perceptions of colour arise when it is such a personal experience? And why do certain collective dislikes (chromophobia) or likes of colour emerge from a highly personal engagement with colour.

Then sets out a brief summary of perceptions of colour starting with JAPAN, which favoured muted colours. Japan's reactionary was largely politically influenced. Court society had much to do with the tradition of muted shades. However, as this lost its cultural dominance, brighter tones won a larger social space. However, the colour sense established in early Japan remained an important part of Japanese elite culture and stood in opposition to foreign influence.

CHINA: Developed in line with the political and commercial ties established along the silk road (linking west to east). Strong colour associated with foreign luxuries and aristocratic vice.

As in Japan, there was a devaluing of colour. Chinese art and aesthetic theory had much to do with this. Political upheaval however affected Chinese perceptions of colour the most. During the Song dynasty monochrome dominated, whilst after the Mongol conquest of China, strong colour gained a foothold in Chinese culture.

WEST ASIA we see a strong devotion to colour. Finlay ties this to the
geographic landscape – the 2 river systems from the highlands of central Africa and Asia Minor figured as bright ribbons in a monotonously brown landscape, and vivid colours were important symbols of human existence. On a practical level, this region also had relatively easy access to

Colour was also an important part of Islamic tradition. Ornament and bright colour acknowledged divinity. They were imaginative expressions of god, and colour was seen as an integral part of mortal existence.

EUROPE: Ideas emerged against the opulence of West Asia and played a significant role in the fight for the supposed virtues of the West against the perceived vices of the East.

Europe against Asia. Against extravagance. Colour used a rallying point against another culture and its perceived excesses.

Slowly this derision of colour began to erode between the C10th and C16th largly to do with commerce, particularly in the expanding the Northern trade in woolens and the need for pigments. Of great importance was the growth of
Venice as a trading city and its links with West Asia. Venice imported all sorts of Persian pigments and sent its textiles, glass, and West Asian merchandise to England, the Netherlands and France. The arts greatly affected continental perceptions of colour. For example the need for pigments in painting helped to change views.

New perceptions of colour in Europe spoke of the changed cultural climate of the C17th, liberated from religious and technical restraints. In Science – the Royal Society heard papers on chemistry, at same time of Newton's experiments.

Colour had arrived across Europe, influenced by New World Pigments and East Asian porcelain. Chinese silks and Indian cottons, Indian calicoes and chintzes. There was GROWING ACCESS to colour.

This access stimulated Europe and their manufactures and colour became an important part of the discussion of aesthetics. There was commercial and scientific interest in the development and growth of synthetic colours. In turn the eventual rise of the Western technology and products had an impact on cultures everywhere.


Colour is a great unifying theme for global history– found everywhere, yet experienced very differently. The strength of the article for me as a piece of global history writing was its scope in terms of interdisciplinarity too – incorporating history, history of design, political and religious history, biology, chemistry and geography.

It made me think differently about colour and consider its various uses beyond the material to the symbolic and its various associative powers, especially in religion, politics and international trade. Like the text in Clunas's discussion, colour had symbolic associations that were communicated beyond the material, and to the unlearned. And like text, it played a part in self-fashioning, cultural superiority and national identity, whether expressed through politics, religion or commerce. Finally the article made me think about the interconnectedness of the arts across time and space, and how work on specific aspects of art and culture can be an interesting way in to understanding national identities and global connections across time and space.

*Craig Clunas: Empire of Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368-1644 *

*Chapter 3: The Word on the Streets: Cultures of Text*

1. The chapter considers the material and visual aspects of text in
Ming China. Main premise is that , even when text cannot be read, its colour, materiality and form communicate something to the viewer. Communication is not solely linguistic.

2. Chapter begins with discussion of the many 'urban texts' that
littered Ming space. Urban dwellers were consistently confronted with public notices. Text was visible everywhere.

These public texts were usually part of state control and presence. Regardless of what public statements said, they were a presentation of state power. The use of text and image in public space were symbols of control.

However, instrument of state control, public texts could also be also part of the resistence to this and the streets were littered with portable paper texts - placards, signs and notices of political conflict and social struggle.

To quote Clunas, public spaces were 'noisy with text'.

3. However, competing identities were formed as much by the material and formal aspects of the words, as much as what they conveyed.

Political statements were made through the written word, its visual and material qualities.

Text in commerce worked in similar ways and the power of the state was seen through text, acting as symbols of the state in every commercial transaction – State marks were seen on ceramics, banknotes, coinage, commercial tokens.
These items circulated and were exchanged and the textual marks impressed on them impressed on the minds of the handlers of these objects, even if the written word itself could not be read.

Portable paper notices inscribed with text made things happen. Land deeds and land taxation all depended upon paper records and even if peasants did not understand the words written on paper notices, these items conveyed a presence of authority. Formal documents spoke of the power of the state. They made things happen as much as they forbade.

4. The cultural prestige of calligraphy was seen especially in the
arts. The act of inscribing calligraphic text again communicated ideas about power and cultural superiority, as much as what the text was saying. It was part of elite fashioning and emperors in particular, wanted to be taken seriously as calligraphers, as display of elite knowledge and culture.

Writing as a performance was central to the aesthetics of calligraphy as an art.

Transcribing was part of this and was also seen as an art and equated to religious practices of writing down what the gods had to say. Again, the physical act of transcribing was part of the display of culture.

The presence of other languages was also part of the display of power. The prestige of languages from the western regions was especially high and inscriptions in Tibetan script for example were statements of taste. To demonstrate at least familiarity with the concept of other script systems was again an important part of self-fashioning and was seen on various desirable commodities such as porcelain objects.

The taste for the exotic, however, illegible, alluded to cosmopolitan

5. To conclude, text and the performance of writing was an important part of the Ming imagination, whether readable or not.

The performance and visibility of text in Ming culture is especially evident in the widespread rejection of printing, and manuscript editions were the ideal, though this came under pressure from the pressures of commerce.

The desire to hold onto the act and physical presence of the handwritten word suggests its centrality to elite culture and demonstrations of power, state control and resistance.

Questions: Glenn Adamson: How describe colour” How we perceive it, e.g. 6-8 sheets to described diff reds in Venice.

Giorgio Riello: In Europe stick to primaries, not bombarded by colours.

Luca Mola: The gender of colour, colours from natural names and living things.

Ann Smart Martin: Good sense of chronology - what parts of the world hae diff. colours. Where does preference for particualr coours firt with position on globe? Have to have light to see colour. Different scales to measure colopour.

Maxine Berg: Natural colours, why do some culutres think it is better to have natural colours, in India produce for western markets, but natives like vibrant cheical dies.

Glen Adamson: What does ‘modernity’ mean globally? Reate to not feelig constrained by naterual materials. In Ming - parallel with modernity, quotes Clunas.
Giorgio Riello: NMOdernity - the neon sky-line. 1870s colour explosion.

Glenn Adamson: Philology of colour, what appears to be the same colour ... is not - different in same language. How tackle exchanges in materiality - influx of calicoes into Europe change palette e.g. want a lot of white so designs float, not in Islamic cultures, white something that is not there.

Giorgio Reillo: Colour forecasting, international bodies - say 24 months in advance - shifts in stages, not sudden differences, consumers prefer this,
Maxine Berg: cf Marian Bianchi’s works novelty fouded on being a bit different not a lot.

Glenn Adamson: Didi Ubermann - background a colour or an absence, e.g. white background of frescoes = preseence of divinity.

5. Emma Markiewicz (National Archive and Warwick) : Modernity Revised

Focussing on the broadening approaches to ‘modernity’ and how it can be traced through global material culture, and two particular recent studies which have used material culture to revise traditional models of modernity
Concept of modernity is seen as a follow on to the industrial revolution and has been seen by western commentators from a western viewpoint
It centres around global market economies taking hold throughout the 19th c and complex economic institutions
In material culture terms, modernity took over in the form of new types of goods, new technologies and manufacturing processes, and a more widespread access to certain types of luxury material goods by greater number of people
Mass consumerism leading to dispersed goods and increased social differentiation through the ownership of goods are key to understanding modernity
General feeling in the secondary literature of ideas growing up around the 19th century elites that ‘modernity’ was located in Europe, and European produced goods
Perceptions of ‘foreign’ goods changed both in space and time according to the economic and political climate of the country in question – perceptions of Euro goods in non-Euro markets are the focus of both writers
Both these articles argue at their core that this model assumes government fiscal policy such as taxes and duties are the primary agent for change and that focussing on these factors ignores the fact that small adjustments made by many people can in fact have a great cumulative effect on the material culture of a place and group of people
Recent research overlooks consumer demand on smaller scale, focussing on economic power dominated by global powers (read: Western economies)
Economic theory of global systems means ideas as to how the non-west was important to the west, but not how the non-western interests may affected global societies
“World system theory” of global interaction implies economic systems are connected – so we could in theory see events in one place have implications for social structures in another – the butterfly flapping its wings in the rainforest – and yet this has always been studied from a very one-sided viewpoint
Implications of this theory are a “core v periphery” model, which seems to have become so accepted in the literature and is discussed in such deterministic terms as to have become universally accepted without question.
The assumptions are always made going from the core to the periphery, but never the other way around, and that’s without even getting into the debate of what constitutes ‘core’ and what ‘ periphery’ on a global scale.
Application of this theory has meant nuances of individual or smaller scale actors and their effect on the larger global framework has been ignored – yet theory of global interrelation tells us that smaller peripheral actors are not autonomous but can affect the larger picture.

Prestholdt uses 19th century East African consumption and trade on a local level to examine reciprocal intercontinental relationships
This way he considers populations and groups of people who have been invisible in past studies
Records from pre-colonial E. Africa show a distinct lack of power of foreign traders to spur production or regulate prices
Genealogies of globality
Prestholdt highlights the smaller, more often overlooked links in the chain of trade and production – from caravan leaders who linked transport, foreign agents and local buyers to the consumers and retailers in the society. They were in a powerful position to understand the local markets – not foreign manufacturers or merchants
He also spends a lot of time emphasising the huge amount of differentiation across different tribes, and the problems this could cause for merchants who didn’t understand local micro cultures.
For example the slight variation in shades of colours of beads could make them valueless in one tribe and highly prized in another. In fact, often tribes sought this differentiation precisely to separate them from their neighbours
Sending out samples was the only way to understand local taste and perception of goods, and traders who failed to do this would not be able to sell goods in East Africa.
Partially manufactured goods often had to be finished on the road with small changes adding considerable value depending on the geographical location of the seller.
The key example for showing how demand on a local level could influence global trade is cloth – there was such a demand in East Africa for American unbleached cloth, it led to the first steam powered textile factory in Salem, North America and development of port cities in New England leading to trade in west India, China and SE Asia so adaptable did they become
Civil war in America took Salem made cloth out of circulation and an increase in export of ivory from E Africa enabled Bombay exporters to flood the East African market – the only manufacturers able to replicate the quality of the American cloth
Again, this led to textile mills in Bombay increasing rapidly – founded by Indian investment not British colonial investment
As with the American example, the firms in Bombay become so flexible they were able to command much of W India’s export trade, coupled with advancements in steamship and telegraph communication
Other effects were to shape the regional labour market and patterns of urban and rural migration, increase the importance of manufacturing centres, stimulate industrialization, economic growth and prosperity across the region
His examples of Salem and Bombay portray two disparate trading communities – only one can have dominance at a time, and it was only domestic problems in America that opened up the market for Bombay.
Lack of flexibility in the E African markets but mainly inability of other manufacturers to reproduce the commodity – English tried an failed


Huge survey of material culture in China, covering foreign derived objects and technologies – can be compared with Prestholdt as takes new perspective on impact of material goods from modern Europe on China, not the other way around
China popularly seen as closed to foreign goods and influence, and this hostility to have slowed down their inclusion in the global economy
20th century writers on the country have tended to airbrush the modern from their accounts in an attempt to show an idealized image of life beyond the neon lights – attempt to preserve nostalgia for a China untainted by the west
However ‘foreign’ had always been synonymous with superior and exotic in a culture that strove to always have something new – thoroughly embraced novelty - and it wasn’t until beginning of 20th century that political elites begin to see ‘foreign’ as ‘ imperialistic’
It is true to say there was a low intake of imported goods relative to Russia, the Ottoman Empire, South America, Africa and SE Asia, but Dikotter shows that this is not an indication of China’s xenophobic lack of interest but actually a measure of the success of the impact foreign goods in fact had – Emperor Yongzhang 1720s wearing a foreign wig
The importation of foreign raw materials consolidated China’s export trade and lead to the growth of new factories alongside household based systems of production – which were able to survive in a free market where they required next to no capital to maintain
Again this led to regional specialisation, increased internal trade and the circulation of goods and migration
Inferior locally made copies of foreign imports flooded the market, perhaps slowing down the import trade
They were cheaper and responded to the needs of relatively poor people – spawned what Dikotter refers to as the copy trade, which in turn enhanced the status of imported goods among elites who could afford them – two tier economy of social differentiation
The pragmatism of the local people to have useful and cheap goods, the popularity of both foreign and copied goods and the desire to have new, not second hand commodities no matter how cheap or shoddily made, changed the material landscape of modern china, despite ideals of political elite
This can be seen as the ultimate example of the mobilising and transforming “repertoire of possibilities” formed by discrete local factors
Dikotter shows the existence of ‘cultural bricolage’ of goods where global homogeneity and local differentiation develop together in tandem, where objects are used and circulated in culturally specific ways – and can be adapted for uses other than those intended by the manufacturer.
He is interested in the social uses of goods rather than production – how objects were understood and reinterpreted for people’s own purposes – such as the hot water bottles used to carry boiled drinking water
This shows that use of simplistic binary oppositions such as old v. new, foreign v. native, derivative v. inventive, hybridity v. purity even west v. non-west are not useful when looking at how people really used objects and meanings invested in them

Our more traditional perspective of how the materialities of the non-west influenced and affected the west is turned on its head in these studies
We are used to hearing about the negative changes brought about by “ global economy”
The intrusion of the west
Destruction of local traditions
Oppressed poor people in non western nations by imposition of our economic systems

Both writers present alternative perspective on global relationships that don’t assume the primacy of certain trading communities
Multi dimensional approach that works both ways and helps us to rethink our definition of materials and material goods, perhaps even begins to transcend thinking of west v non-west as disjoined spheres
Dikotter’s examples of cheap mirrors becoming infused with spirituality by being placed outside dwellings – an example mass production helping rather than arresting local cultural and spiritual traditions
We can think more about the sentiment behind goods – meanings that are often lost in production, material or representational based studies
What meaning is imbued into objects – can an object still be made of foreign raw materials and have “national” sentiment for the country in which it is consumed
Also interesting his points about cultural thinking of people as commodities in China – in western thinking people and things are seen separately – it is impossible to sell or exchange the former
Concerns in Europe and America about commoditization of human attributes – labour, intellect, creativity, human organs, female reproductive capacity
Equally things having a more spiritual dimension in the east, objects are more used to represent notions and thoughts
Both approaches lead towards a more reciprocal model of global relations – constraining circumstances and level of inequality - but level of adaptation that reinstates agency to individuals households and tribes


Maxine Berg - African glass beads

Glenn Adamson: Film - Coke bottle lands in a Bush tribe, thrown back into ocean, an allegory of modernism. Material have properties, not locally available, change perceptions

Beads as traded commodities, commercial porpetie sof beads. Merchat from Amsterdam make beads like sacred stones

Maxine Berg: Glass factories in Birminghamproduce for trade - export more than made for home market. Sent on McCarthy expedition Comparisonof glass and plsic. Glass magical

Ann Smart Martin: Mirrors are glass, trade to Africa, 1830 took large chair made of mirror for chief. Plastic not have refractive possibilities.

Glenn Adamson: Copy Culture, - Chinese exhibition at V&A - problems.