News & Announcements

This documentary film explores the impacts of extreme weather events and global commodity frontiers on the natural environment and local communities in Cuba's Caibarién-Remedios region, where Hurricane Irma - one of the most powerful ever to sweep the Caribbean - made landfall on September 9, 2017. 
Filmed, edited, and directed by Michael Chanan. Written and produced by Jonathan Curry-Machado and Jean Stubbs.

Professor Beckert researches and teaches the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political and transnational dimensions. He just published Empire of Cotton: A Global History, the first global history of the nineteenth century’s most important commodity. The book won the Bancroft Award, The Philip Taft Award, the Cundill Recognition for Excellence and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times named it one of the ten most important books of 2015. His other publications have focused on the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, on labor, on democracy, on global history and on the connections between slavery and capitalism. Currently he is at work on a history of capitalism. Beckert teaches courses on the political economy of modern capitalism, the history of American capitalism, Gilded Age America, labor history, global capitalism and the history of European capitalism. Together with a group of students he has also worked on the historical connections between Harvard and slavery and published Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History

Beckert is co-chair of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard University , and co-chair of the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History (WIGH). Beyond Harvard, he co-chairs an international study group on global history, is co-editor of a series of books at Princeton University Press on “America in the World,” and has co-organized a series of conferences on the history of capitalism. He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. He also directs the Harvard College Europe Program.

Date: May 14, 2019

Time: 11.00 – 12.15

Venue: Udvælgseværelse 3, Nørregdae

Registration is required. Send a mail to Sofie Rosa Mønster 
Professor Chatterjee teaches history at UT Austin, and is the author of Gender, Slavery and the Law in Colonial India (1999), and of Forgotten Friends: Monks, Marriages and Memories of Northeast India (2013) editor of Unfamiliar Relations: Family and History in South Asia (2004), coeditor of Slavery and South Asian History (2007).  Her long term research and teaching focus has been on slavery and South Asian history, the gender of South Asian pasts, Early Modernity in the subcontinent, and the Power of Performance.   Her current work draws attention to both intellectual and economic histories of the subcontinent. In particular, she is interested in the ways in which wealth travelled between and within monastic lineages in the past. Having worked on the ways in which monastic governmentality was forgotten in Indian historiography by the early decades of the twentieth century, she is currently revisiting the costs of such forgetting to women's wealth in eastern India. Registration is required. Send a mail to Sofie Rosa Mønster 

Date: May 13, 2019

Time 9.45 – 11.00 onwards

Venue: Udvælgseværelse 3, Nørregdae

This public lecture in Berlin examined two forms of "catastrophic environmental events": the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and the many thousand oil spills in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. These two regions are oil frontiers, and the lecture showed through a close examination of both cases how risk and insecurities accumulate over time, making both outcomes almost inevitable, pushing each frontier zone closer to the edge of disaster.
This project has been awarded an AHRC Research Networking grant for the production of a pilot three-part series of 20-minute documentaries, in English and Spanish, exploring how a history of hurricanes and global commodity frontiers has impacted on the natural environment, and coastal and rural communities made vulnerable by excessive exploitation of natural resources and the inequalities of the global market. It will focus on the local community of Caibarién, which was in the eye of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and the surrounding region of Remedios, in north-central Cuba. Stay tuned for updates! 
"At the turn of the second millennium, the sign of the South underwent a dramatic reconfiguration. It no longer stands for just debt, deprivation, and dystopia in the eyes of the world. It is also seen as an emerging market—a place of hope, optimism, and possibilities, even the future of capitalism. Shaped in manifold contradictions, the South inheres both tantalizing visions of limitless economic growth and vast reserves of yet “untapped” natural resources and, at the same time, environmental damage, eroding infrastructures, violent inequalities, and the increasing disposability of human life. The South represents a moment of uncertainty in the history of capitalism that brings the human condition itself into question. This conversation addresses the contradictions and indeterminacy, difficulties and possibilities, and the uncertain futures that might await both the South and the North alike."
Sven Beckert and Mindi Schneider's recent article in die Zeit. For centuries, the poor south has been delivering what makes the north rich: raw materials and cheap labor. The end of the colonial age has not changed that.
Click here to read Sven Beckert and Mindi Schneider's recent article in Il Sole 24 Ore
Sven Beckert and Mindi Schneider's recent article in EfSyn. European development & consumption are based in the plunder of global resources - sustainable solutions require voices of communities fighting for environmental justice and historical perspective on commodity frontiers.
An interactive workshop at the 36th International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association grappled was organized around discussion of the following questions: To which processes and geographies do we refer when we speak about ‘Commodity Frontiers’? How can this concept contribute to the study of Latin America? Which methods and analytical tools are relevant to the study of Latin American commodity frontiers? Read the full report here.
This workshop brings together scholars from across disciplines and diverse areas of regional expertise to examine the social, economic and political dynamics of commodity production in Latin America. The historical trajectories of commodity frontiers have transformed Latin America’s societies and deepened the region’s relation to the global economy, giving shape to challenges for national economies and for social and environmental justice. The expansion of commodity frontiers at a global level cannot be understood without bringing Latin America and the Caribbean to the fore. And yet, in analyses of global transformations, the role of Latin America is often reduced to that of a passive periphery. This workshop seeks to contribute to a more comprehensive integration of Latin American dynamics in the study of globalizing commodity production without ‘flattening’ the region’s internal inequalities. The workshop provides in an inter- and transdisciplinary platform to explore ‘Commodity Frontiers’ as a conceptual tool for examining and explaining the inherent ecological contradictions of expanded commodity production in the Latin American context.
Read the full report here on the second international GLOCON symposium, held in Berlin February 8-9, 2018. Presentations and discussions considered theoretical approaches to the study of conflicts over resources, the roles of state actors in such conflicts, how social relations figure in conflicts over resources, and ways in which actors have achieved structural change from below. They keynote address was delivered by Shalini Randeria.
A workshop convened by Kris Manjapra and Sascha Auerbach at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin/Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin on March 22-23, 2018 gathered to raise new questions about modern and current-day histories of plantation regimes. Discussions shed light on connections between plantation complexes over the longue durée of modern global capitalism, across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, and examined the dynamics of conceptual and material change in histories of agro-industry, especially with regards to transition periods in historical time over the past two centuries. 
This conference, convened July 20-21, 2017 in Binghamton, New York, examined power, reproduction, and unpaid work in the capitalist world-ecology. Dr. Marion Dixon of the American University (Washington DC) and Dr. Hanne Cottyn of Ghent University (Belgium) organized panels on "Commodity Frontiers in Historical Capitalism" to examine how capital accumulates in nature, and how nature works through processes of capital accumulation. Plantation economies for the production of a range of commodities (tea, sugar, coffee, rubber) were discussed at length across different continents, and across the 19th and 20th centuries. The panelists also considered what is distinct about 21st-century commodity frontiers.
REPORT: Fourth International Workshop Conference Report: "Commodity Frontiers and Global Capitalist Expansion: Social, Ecological and Resource Policy Implications"
Held December 6-7, 2017 at Zayed University in Dubai, participants in this workshop developed a global and comparative approach to understanding the dynamics both of commodity frontiers and the historical trajectories within their frontier zones, with particular interest in the differences/similarities between commodity frontiers which in one way or another have had an impact on land and nature, and people’s relationships to land and nature.
Scheduled to begin production in 2019, this three-part documentary series will explore the impacts of extreme weather events and global commodity frontiers on the natural environment and local communities in Cuba's Caibarién-Remedios region. Through interviews with experts and local residents, and footage taken on location, drawn from newsreel, film, and excavated from archives, the series will explore the roles of shifting commodity frontiers (from livestock, to coffee, tobacco, sugar, and tourism) and the devastation wrought by hurricanes in 1846, 1933, and Hurricane Irma in 2017 in producing the vulnerability of local communities, and their prospects for recovery. 
The series will be directed by Michael Chanan, and will be produced in both English and Spanish versions, as a collaboration between the Commodities of Empire Project and the Fundación Antonio Nuñez Jiménez in Cuba.
For further information concerning this production, please contact Dr Jonathan Curry-Machado.