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Domesticating the World

African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization

Jeremy Prestholdt

Publication Year: 2008

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.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: California World History Library


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

...The experience of researching and writing this book has shown me how to see the world differently. I thank everyone who has contributed to that shift of vision. Long before any of these ideas took shape my parents, Cynthia and Perry, and my sister, Jennifer, lovingly nurtured my interests. My parents also made my first visit to East Africa possible, for which I am still grateful. Kianga Ford, who shared...

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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...

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1. Similitude and Global Relationships: Self-Representation in Mutsamudu

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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...

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2. The Social Logics of Need: Consumer Desire in Mombasa

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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...

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3. The Global Repercussions of Consumerism: East African Consumers and Industrialization

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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...

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4. Cosmopolitanism and Cultural Domestication: Consumer Imports in Zanzibar

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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...

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5. Symbolic Subjection and Social Rebirth: Objectification in Urban Zanzibar

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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...

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6. Picturesque Contradictions: Taxonomies of East Africa

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pp. 147-170

...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 value that he imagined. Instead, he found European chairs, chandeliers, Parisian mirrors, and colored prints...

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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...


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pp. 177-236

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 237-258


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pp. 259-273

Production Notes

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p. 274-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780520941472
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520254237

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: California World History Library