Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ed Wilmsen lecture

The Dept. of Anthropology and the Center for Society, Technology and Development at McGill University are sponsoring a talk by Ed Wilmsen (UT - Austin), famous for his 198 book Land full of Flies: A Political Economy of the Kalahari, and for his spearheading in part the 'revisionist' side of the 'Kalahari Debate' over the past 25 years. This is an especially timely talk, since this very debate was discussed in my seminar last week (as discussed here).

Wilmsen will be talking about “Globalization before the globe: Regulation of intercontinental trade in southern Africa, ca. CE 700-1800.” Here's the abstract
In this paper, I engage a social geography in order to map the processes by which intercontinental trade was regulated in interior southern Africa during the 8th-15th centuries. This region was at that time part of an early form of "globalization" encompassing the entire Indo-Pacific province as well as the Islamic caliphates of the eastern Mediterranean. There are no written records for or from this interior region until the beginning of the 16th century when Portuguese captured the Swahili trading entrepôts on the east coast and began to penetrate into the interior. Other forms of evidence must be adduced to illuminate the social processes active in the interior in the centuries I am considering. Material artifacts are a prime source of evidence for this task, for, I contend, they have the same ontological status as words. Drawing on the works of Locke, Marx and Engels, Simmel, and Veblen I argue that, marked by distinct intentions of their makers and users, material artefacts are potentially as comprehensible as verbal documents. With these premises set forth, I turn to the scope of early Indo-Pacific commodity exchange, then to an overview of the southern African landscape, and finally to episodes of origin mythology widespread in the region. From this I specify certain minimum components of a structure of rights to possession of things, rules governing who may inherit specific things, rules governing movement of these things, rules governing who may handle them, and rules governing processes of their valuation.
It's open to everyone, so if you're in the Montreal area next week and are interested in those issues, you should definitely try to attend! The whole thing takes place Monday, January 28, 2008, (12:30-2:00PM), in Room 738 of the Leacock Building, McGill University.

1 comment:

Karl said...

Wilmsen shit the bed so many times in the anthro community. artifacts have the value of words? why WOULDNT a revisionist say something so absurd?