Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, University of California / San Diego

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1999
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Northwestern University
East African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization

Poised at the intersection of culture and commerce, my project examines the role of consumption in economic and social change on the Swahili coast during a period of rapid integration into global commercial systems. Though African demand provided primary momentum to transoceanic commerce in the early modern era (ca.1500-1800), scholars have not examined the social logic and cultural rationale of African consumption practices. I argue that in order to understand historical patterns of global exchange, it is necessary to examine changes in local demand as well as the ways in which foreign commodities were understood and employed in local social, economic, and political relationships. I will examine material consumption in the Mombasa region-the commercial heart of the East African coast-through a survey of the uses of three forms of material culture: food, clothing, and the built environment. Since evidence of changes in consumption, commerce, and social relations in the early modern period are fragmentary, my project will employ a combination of source material, including archaeological, written archival, and oral data. By studying consumption on the Swahili coast I will explore the ways in which the uses of goods and the meanings given them locally can reflect as well as influence socioeconomic change over time.