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Domesticating the World

Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization

Jeremy Prestholdt
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Domesticating the World
    Book Description:

    This book boldly unsettles the idea of globalization as a recent phenomenon—and one driven solely by Western interests—by offering a compelling new perspective on global interconnectivity in the nineteenth century. Jeremy Prestholdt examines East African consumers' changing desires for material goods from around the world in an era of sweeping social and economic change. Exploring complex webs of local consumer demands that affected patterns of exchange and production as far away as India and the United States, the book challenges presumptions that Africa's global relationships have always been dictated by outsiders. Full of rich and often-surprising vignettes that outline forgotten trajectories of global trade and consumption, it powerfully demonstrates how contemporary globalization is foreshadowed in deep histories of intersecting and reciprocal relationships across vast distances.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94147-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    While some boundaries seem as impassable as ever, many people feel as if the spatial divisions of the world are fast disappearing. Though these perspectives reflect different experiences, they both are predicated on presumptions of historical insularity. Attempts to describe the myriad ways that people, ideas, and objects either transcend spatial barriers or are restricted by them are important. But we should be mindful of the ways our analyses confirm the all-too-common presumption that human history has been typified by bounded geographical and cultural spheres. The aim of this book is to challenge notions of discrete sociocultural spaces and limited...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Similitude and Global Relationships: Self-Representation in Mutsamudu
    (pp. 13-33)

    A town on a small island in the Indian Ocean once acquired a voracious appetite for English things. It was not a British colony, and it hosted neither an English Consulate nor a permanent English resident until the 1850s—fully two centuries after islanders began their relationship with the English. By consuming English goods, speaking English, and asserting an affiliation with Britain, the people of Mutsamudu town on Nzwani (Anjouan) Island in the Mozambique Channel created an intimacy with a global power and parlayed their claims to a special, at times familial, relationship with Britain into economic and political support....

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Social Logics of Need: Consumer Desire in Mombasa
    (pp. 34-58)

    As we have seen in the case of Mutsamudu, a full appreciation of the changing dynamics of translocal relationships requires an examination of the logics that shape them on all sides. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Mutsamuduans tapped dramatically expanding global networks. Though East Africans had maintained connections across the Indian Ocean region for at least two thousand years, in the nineteenth century many cities along the East African coast accessed new interoceanic commercial circuits that linked them with more of the world than ever before. The configurations of these connections were determined both by foreign demands for East...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Global Repercussions of Consumerism: East African Consumers and Industrialization
    (pp. 59-87)

    Analysts of global integration have been rightfully concerned with elucidating global inequalities. But increasing interconnectivity has also created possibilities for seemingly marginal people to affect larger patterns of interrelation. By concentrating on how economic power is deployed by dominant global actors, analysts of globalizing processes have largely overlooked how quotidian acts such as consumer demand across the globe influence economic relations, however asymmetrical those relationships may be. Highlighting instances of direct reciprocity in global networks, this chapter recovers some of the ways that East African consumers shaped the global economy in the nineteenth century. East Africans used imported commodities to...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Cosmopolitanism and Cultural Domestication: Consumer Imports in Zanzibar
    (pp. 88-116)

    The dialectics of global integration and social change that produced the Western concept of modernity likewise gave rise to new social, cultural, and material realities in East Africa. Modernity, as a mode of perception, was ideologically forged at a moment when the world was becoming deeply interconnected. Yet nineteenth-century Western analysts tended to discredit other modes of self-perception, material relation, and economic change by theorizing modernity as a bounded temporal form dependent on exclusionary definitions of historical progression and essential difference. Through the tropes of progression and civilization, proponents of a quintessentially Western modernity denied “coevalness” in time and imagined...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Symbolic Subjection and Social Rebirth: Objectification in Urban Zanzibar
    (pp. 117-146)

    People have been used in ways similar to objects. In the second half of the nineteenth century, slavery—a form of subjection in East Africa fixed by negations of self-definition and rooted in forced social dependency¹—was both a common facet of Zanzibari life and one of the greatest concerns of British imperial policy in the region. Zanzibari slaves were bought and sold like commodities. Just as important, slaves, like commodities, were socially valuable to owners and even anti–slave trade activists for their ability to represent the interests of those who sought to control them. Though at political odds,...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Picturesque Contradictions: Taxonomies of East Africa
    (pp. 147-170)

    On holiday in Zanzibar in the late 1880s, big-game hunter John C. Willoughby visited Sultan Barghash’s palace at Chukwani. “I had always been under the impression that a Sultan’s palace was indescribably blaze[sic]of pillars set with sparkling gems of incalculable value,” Willoughby wrote in his memoir, “and thus if you could pick out a single loose stone and return with it to your native land, a life with such ease and comfort as results from a large revenue . . . would be your just reward.” On arrival at Chukwani, Willoughby found neither the gems nor the incalculable...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 171-176)

    This study has attempted to shed light on a vast archive of interconnectivity and socioeconomic experience that constitutes the world in mundane ways. I began with the supposition that global relations consist of reciprocities that trouble unilinear accounts of global integration. My strategy has been to start with place-based actions and perceptions of the world and then trace the repercussions of these out to distant places and people. The overlapping scales, strategies, and meanings that I have described here suggest not only differences in the ways East Africans related to people from elsewhere but also shifting perceptions of East Africans....

  13. Notes
    (pp. 177-236)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 237-258)
  15. Index
    (pp. 259-273)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 274-274)