Across Colonial Lines: Empires, Commodities and Movements

Across Colonial Lines: Empires, Commodities and Movements

Emily Webb and Purba Hossain, University of Leeds
United Kingdom
From - Until
18.09.2019 -
Purba Hossain

We are pleased to invite abstracts to this one-day conference which focuses on how commodities circulated within and between Empire(s), with the aim of exploring how these movements affected the Empire and its parts.

Empires have always been defined by movements—whether of peoples, objects, or ideas. This included commodities that were traded within and between empires (such as silk, tobacco, gold and silver), commodities produced in colonial plantations and within colonial hierarchies of power (such as opium, sugar, tea and cotton), commodities whose production and circulation prompted widespread migration and displacement (such as sugar plantations in the Caribbean, cotton plantations in the US, and tea plantations in eastern India), and commodities whose movement was necessitated by settlement in colonies (such as books, ice, and even gravestones). The circulation of commodities across borders had wide-ranging social, cultural and ecological impacts. The patterns of circulation had a particular impact on how Empires functioned and how boundaries and limits were defined. Further, discussions around such commodities affected understandings of movement, ‘free trade’ and labour rights in Empires, and created new ideas of borders, citizenship and itineracy.

Using a broad definition of ‘commodities’, this conference brings together scholars of empire and commodity over a broad historical time-period. With a series of panels, a keynote speech and a roundtable discussion, we hope to explore new methodologies and research ideas collectively, to generate new perspectives on commodities in the imperial context.

Abstract Submission:

To submit your abstract please send your paper title, abstract (250-300 words) and a short bio (150 words) in MS-word format to
The deadline for submission is June 10, 2019

Possible Themes:

- Commodity production, consumption and circulation
- Trade, movement and itineracy
- Imperial boundaries
- Identities and identity formation
- Colonial encounters
- Discourse around commodity movement
- Migration and displacement
- ‘Globalisation’
- Relationship between the metropole and colonies
- Global commodities
- Networks of medical knowledge and medicine


Contact (announcement)

Emily Webb or Purba Hossain