Lecture 2. Coffee: Its Origins, and Global Dispersal

This lecture, along with the two other lectures that it is associated with, uses certain eastern commodities (coffee, porcelain, and Indian textiles) to conceptualize spatial and geographic relationships in ways that offer an alternative to the pervasive state-centered narratives which fix territory in more static and landbound ways. Yet, this is the only one of the three that looks at a comestible product, the other two examine manufactured wares, and are thus much more focused on technology, visual culture, and aesthetic consumption. But, even so, it is argued that by following commodities along their routes of production, circulation, and consumption, we can explore a dynamic sense of historical topography and provide different ways of conceiving of space than those that are oriented around geographies of political expansion or imperial engagement. The spaces of coffee’s peregrinations are presented here on a large scale through world maps, using arrows and markers that express major global developments and shifts. But nested within these larger spatial vectors are sites that are oriented on a smaller scale, locations and buildings where coffee was consumed and traded, or which were built with the proceeds that came from the coffee trade. Together they provide a telescoping perspective on coffee’s purview, communicated in wholly spatial terms, articulated on the level of the global and the local.

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Lecture Notes