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.


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

Show description

Read Online or Download Commodity Histories PDF

Best cultural studies books

Shaping Things (Mediaworks Pamphlets)

"Shaping issues is ready created gadgets and the surroundings, that is to assert, it's approximately everything," writes Bruce Sterling during this addition to the Mediawork Pamphlet sequence. He provides, "Seen from adequate distance, this can be a small subject. "

Sterling bargains an excellent, frequently hilarious background of formed issues. we have now moved from an age of artifacts, made by means of hand, via advanced machines, to the present period of "gizmos. " New types of layout and manufacture are showing that lack historic precedent, he writes; however the construction equipment, utilizing archaic types of power and fabrics which are finite and poisonous, are usually not sustainable. the longer term will see a brand new form of object—we have the primitive kinds of them now in our wallet and briefcases: user-alterable, baroquely multi-featured, and programmable—that may be sustainable, enhanceable, and uniquely identifiable. Sterling cash the time period "spime" for them, those destiny synthetic gadgets with informational help so vast and wealthy that they're considered as fabric instantiations of an immaterial approach. Spimes are designed on displays, fabricated via electronic capacity, and accurately tracked via area and time. they're made up of components that may be folded again into the creation flow of destiny spimes, hard we all to get involved of their creation. Spimes are coming, says Sterling. we'll desire those gadgets so as to stay; we won't be capable of give up their benefits with out lousy consequences.

The imaginative and prescient of Shaping issues is given fabric shape via the complicated layout of Lorraine Wild. Shaping issues is for designers and thinkers, engineers and scientists, marketers and financiers—and a person who desires to comprehend and join the method of technosocial transformation.

Remaking Kurosawa: Translations and Permutations in Global Cinema

Through the lens of Akira Kurosawa's films, Martinez dissects the human tendency to make connections in a pioneering try to construct a bridge out of various fabrics: the anthropology of Japan, movie reviews, and postmodern theory.

The Devil's Cup: Coffee, the Driving Force in History

Submit yr notice: First released June 18th 2001

Can you deal with mornings and not using a brew? No? Multiply that.

Imagine a complete inhabitants lower than a cloud of lethargy, not able to kick begin their days. Now introduce espresso. Bingo. The mind strikes into over-drive and it's time for empire construction. So is going Stewart Lee Allen's loopy thought.

Only factor is, after retracing coffee's trip to global domination - through educate, rickshaw, shipment freighter and donkey - he has lots of facts to again it up. Stewart Lee Allen has filtered out the richest beans from coffee's sizzling and frothy heritage . . . serving up a steamy, high-energy brew that may stimulate you greater than a triple-strength coffee.

As they could say in Starbucks: 'Enjoy. '

Shakespeare's Freedom (The Rice University Campbell Lectures)

Shakespeare lived in an international of absolutes—of claims for absolutely the authority of scripture, monarch, and God, and the authority of fathers over better halves and youngsters, the outdated over the younger, and the light over the baseborn. With the beauty and verve for which he's renowned, Stephen Greenblatt, writer of the best-selling Will on this planet, indicates that Shakespeare was once strikingly averse to such absolutes and always probed the potential of freedom from them.

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.

Download PDF sample

Rated 4.43 of 5 – based on 20 votes