I’m back in Houston today, after a very nice weekend in Tulsa, presenting at SCSECS ’07. Laura Stevens did a fine job running the conference, whose program can be found here:
I heard a number of interesting talks, but I wanted to post today about one particularly good set of talks.
Eugenia Zuroski, at U Arkansas, put up a very nice panel on nationalism and national identity, with fine papers from Natalie Bayer, Elizabeth Thompson, Jason Holinger, and Amanda Hines (those interested in learning more about these talks may consult the program link above, which gives affiliations and titles).
The papers described a number of different aspects of nationalism and trade during our period: Russian freemasonry, settler/native american intermarriage, nabobs and the gentlemanly ideal in colonial India, and British tea-table rituals. One of the most interesting topics to emerge from was the convergence of modernization and nationalism as large-scale historical processes significantly driven yet complicated by commerce and trade. Yet some 18c witnesses to these processes fought against these developments, as well: tea was denounced as a luxury and a drug, and the nabobs of India were disapproved of for their excesses or ostentation. We talked a little about the “pollution” and destabilization that trade seemed to introduce into those societies, and the heavy fire that such symptoms of trade and change drew from contemporary moralists.
But the usual opposition of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism to a nascent 19c nationalism seems too simplistic to describe the events described in this panel. It seems that “enlightenment” and “nationalism” seem to be phases of a single process of modernization taking place in Europe and elsewhere, which involves the incorporation of places like Russia, India, China, or the American colonies into the world-market run by English and European traders and merchants. It’s important to note, moreover, that these exchanges affected not just patterns of consumption for these goods, but also “manners” in every sense of the word.
In any case, it was a fine set of talks. More later on other stuff I saw at Tulsa.