Commodity Histories by Bruce Robbins

By Bruce Robbins

Essay's first paragraph:

One impressive attribute of commodity histories, a all of sudden ubiquitous style of renowned non-fiction, is a undeniable overkill of their subtitles. A consultant pattern may possibly contain, say, Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to worldwide Dominance; Tobacco: A Cultural historical past of ways an unique Plant Seduced Civilization; The Potato: How the standard Spud Rescued the Western World; The international of Caffeine: The technology and tradition of the World’s most well-liked Drug; Cod: A Biography of the Fish that modified the World; and Mauve: How One guy Invented a colour that modified the World. simply somewhat much less over-the-top than the “changed the world” clause, which additionally appears to be like in fresh histories of vanilla, residence cats, ping pong balls, dishwashing liquid, and pocket lint, is the style for two-word titles within which an adjective, frequently a commodity-identifying colour, is paired with the main coveted of important metals. a few examples are Blue Gold (water), White Gold (rubber), Black Gold (oil), and Green Gold (tea and marijuana). Such titles recommend that every one of those commodities, even the humblest, have the ability to get continents came upon, dynasties toppled, mountains moved. We take a few of these commodities without any consideration, yet them all have replaced the world.

Citation:

Robbins, Bruce. "Commodity Histories." PMLA, 120.2 (Mar., 2005): 454-463.

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Extra resources for Commodity Histories

Example text

We stage it, and we ourselves appear in it as spectator and critic (Evreinoff 1990: 423). After all, an individual “‘plays a role’ not only when he is seen by others. He continues to ‘act’ even when he is alone, when he is left entirely to himself. Moreover, he is at such moments not only a ‘player,’ but also a ‘playwright’ and a ‘stage director’” (Evreinoff 1990: 422). But from where does the belief in mind-space – or what may be called the “inner forum” or “theater of the mind” (Brissett and Edgley 1990b: 16) – and the self come?

10. As an example of changes in body perceptions, note that “When four women appeared on a calisthenics show in sleeveless shirts and shorts, the nation was shocked. Four decades later, women on the show wear skin-tight Spandex” (Matsuzaki 1997). 11. As for “Westernizing” Japanese physical traits, Miller points that we should be wary of reading too much into the interpretation that such practices are motivated by a “racist beauty ideology that denigrates Asian physical appearance”: “Wouldn’t that be confounding the rejection of older Japanese models of male identity, particularly the salaryman, with a rejection of ethnicity?

Thus, I will give examples of how authority figures – whether in the form of individuals and institutions – go to great efforts to associate themselves with “soft” images. In Chapter 6 I continue the discussion initiated in Chapter 5, illustrating how the ethics of the cute aesthetic are embedded and implicated in consumerist acts. Notes 1. Cf. Hendry (“Wrapping of the Body”, 1993: 70–97). 2. Other stereotypes involving material culture come to mind: Japanese tourists weighed down with cameras, wearing hats and led by female guides holding flags, samurai swordsmen and fleshy sumô wrestlers in loincloth.

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