Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin / Madison

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Wisconsin / Madison
Circuits of Silk: Commerce, Colonialism, and Cultural Encounters Between Lebanon and Lyon

My project will analyze the connections between the French silk trade with Lebanon and the construction of colonialist ideology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on the economic exchanges and cultural encounters fostered through transnational commerce, I will investigate how the interactions of industrial corporations, imperial agents, and mostly female silk workers in both Lebanon and Lyon at once informed and drew from stocks of imperial knowledge. I approach capitalist practices and Orientalist discourse as mutually constitutive, and my dissertation aims to explore the complex intersections between economic and cultural forms of French imperialism. The goal of my research is to explore how the convergences and contradictions between corporate structures and discursive representations shed light on France's imperial relationship with Lebanon. By tracing circuits of exchange, I aim to elucidate how colonial knowledge mediated commercial practices connecting metropole and colony. I propose breaking down the historiographical separation of economic and cultural colonialism, and I therefore interpret material interests alongside articulations of fantasy, stereotypes, and ideology. In the fields, factories, and marketplaces of France and Lebanon, I suggest, cultural encounters both reflected and constructed imperial power relations. Through the archival records of French silk corporations, consular and military officials, and workers' syndicates, I will be able to evaluate the ways in which laborers, employers, and elites engaged with capitalist structures and colonial governance. From French economic and political expansion into Lebanon in 1860 through formal colonization after the Great War, I intend to track how relationships between material interests and cultural worldviews informed the experiences of capitalism and colonialism across the Mediterranean.