Global Goods: Commodity Cultures Past and Present
Fall 2015 not offered
The world we inhabit is full of global goods. We drink coffee and tea; we eat bananas, potatoes, and corn. All of these products moved into global circulation in the last few hundred years, with the intense global connections that came alongside European colonialism. We will ask what traveled when Europeans began to consume goods such as tobacco and tea from the 15th century onward, and why particular commodities were favored over others. How did the habits that accompanied particular material objects affect those who used them? How is it that things--actual material objects--are such an important part of early globalization and colonialism? We will also examine globalization as a multidirectional process and understand the movement of objects in complex processes of cultural exchange in which indigenous groups were often savvy consumers.
We will also think about the cultural dimensions of commodity chains in the contemporary world. Through examining coffee and other commodities, we will think about the ways in which the meaning of objects changes as they pass through different cultural contexts, paying particular attention to the fact that seemingly concrete objects of globalization (such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's restaurants) may undergo significant shifts in meaning as they move into different contexts. To help explore these aspects, we will go on at least one field trip relating to our class materials (e.g., a local chocolate shop and/or coffee roaster).
|Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Lecture / Discussion
|Grading Mode: Graded
|Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ARHA)
Burke, LIFEBUOY MEN, LUX WOMEN: COMMODIFICATION, CONSUMPTION, & CLEANLINESS IN MODERN ZIMBABWE
Mintz, SWEETNESS AND POWER: THE PLACE OF SUGAR IN MODERN HISTORY
Norton, SACRED GIFTS, PROFANE PLEASURES: A HISTORY OF TOBACCO AND CHOCOLATE IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD
Prestholdt, DOMESTICATING THE WORLD: AFRICAN CONSUMERISM AND THE GENEALOGIES OF GLOBALIZATION
Thomas, ENTANGLED OBJECTS: EXCHANGE, MATERIAL CULTURE, AND COLONIALISM IN THE PACIFIC
Watson, GOLDEN ARCHES EAST: MCDONALD'S IN EAST ASIA
West, FROM MODERN PRODUCTION TO IMAGINED PRIMITIVE: THE SOCIAL WORLD OF COFFEE FROM PAPUA NEW GUINEA
|Examinations and Assignments:
Several short papers and reading responses, participation in class discussion, and final research paper.
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments:
This First Year Initiative seminar is part of Wesleyan's Learning and Living Program. Students who register for this class will live together in the same residence hall. Because students are living in close proximity to one another, intellectual discussions and collaborative learning more naturally extend beyond the classroom. This arrangement facilitates group assignments and projects, and allows for the growth of a strong community of students through daily interactions. Strengthening students' intellectual and residential community enhances the undergraduate experience for Learning and Living seminar participants.
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