Interrogating Commodity Cultures | Exploring Global Connections

Friday, 5 May 2017

This one-day interdisciplinary workshop will interrogate the cultural transformations effected by global commodity histories in the long nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Colonial conquest, advancements in travel technologies and industrialisation all contributed to creating the material conditions which allowed for the production, consumption, and movement of commodities across the globe. In so doing, the global capitalist system and actors within it changed not only transnational relations, but also local cultures and practices. The increased mobility of commodities, peoples and things introduced new geographies of connection and provided new ways of imagining the contact zones of colonial encounters. This workshop will ask how the global circulation of commodities is mediated through forms such as novels, poetry, drama, advertising and art. It will explore how these literary and visual mediations of the global circulation of commodities have rewritten the map of the globe and introduced new spatial imaginaries and dynamics of power. What kinds of artistic and literary responses have these commodity histories generated? How do these responses register and resist the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of the global circulation of commodities? Given that commodity histories are rarely confined within neat temporal borders, and their legacies and cultural interpretation have an enduring tendency to persist, what mode of trans-historical reading is adequate to the task? What new methodological approaches are necessary to grapple with the circulation of goods in a globalised world? And what is at stake in utilising these multiple scales of reference, from the local to the transnational?

For further information and abstracts please go to

Venue: Room H204, UCD Humanities Institute


9:30 – 10:00 Registration

10:00 – 11:00 Keynote
Michael Niblett (Warwick), ‘Commodity Cultures: Work, Frontiers, and Peripheral Modernisms’
Chair: Fariha Shaikh (UCD)

11:00 – 11:30 Tea/Coffee

11:30 – 12:45 Global Aspirations
Arjo Roersch van der Hoogte (Strathclyde), ‘Cocaine: The Transformation of a Psychoactive Global Commodity (ca. 1880 – 1940)’
Seán Whitney (Limerick), ‘The Business of Irish Tobacco from Free Trade to Free State’
Marc Ricard (Exeter), ‘“The Flower of Remedies”: Late Victorian Patent Medicine in the Context of “Cryptobotany”’
Chair: Nick Daly (UCD)

12:45 – 1:45 Lunch

1:45 – 3:15 Adventure, Empire and Imperialism
Emma Reisz (Queen’s University Belfast), ‘Henry Wickham and the Self-Mythologising of a Coffee Baron and Rubber Knight’
Paul Young (Exeter), ‘Eat Meat Crave Repeat: Adventure Fiction, British Culinary Culture and the Growth of Global Meat Markets, 1865-1914’
Briony Wickes (King’s College London), ‘“Portable Property”: Sheep and the Settler Colonial Wool Trade in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861)’
Melanie Otto (Trinity College Dublin), ‘Empire Remains: Landscape as Archive in the Work of Annalee Davis’
Chair: Dara Downey (UCD)

3:15 – 3:45 Tea/Coffee

3:45 – 5:00 Commodity Aesthetics
Sharae Deckard (UCD), ‘“The Dollar/That Grows on a Tree”: Commodity Frontiers and Extractivism in the Literature of Cacao’
Alison Garden (UCD), ‘“Rubber Terror”: Capitalist World-Ecology and Roger Casement in The Fever
Treasa De Loughry (Maynooth), ‘Petro-Modernity, Plastic and Crises of Representation’
Chair: TBC

5:00 Closing Remarks