history type things, quite cool
May 25, 2019 4:14 AM   Subscribe

 
My favorite version of this is the "singerie" in Dutch paintings from the late 1500s and early 1600s, which are full of paintings of monkeys from Indonesia and that region (lots of macaques), South American monkeys (Suriname) and monkeys from West and Central Africa - including some very close relatives of the monkeys I study (most notably, the Roloway monkey!). It is, of course, all related to colonialism. There was apparently a Dutch colony ("Dutch Gold Coast") in what is today Ghana. Today, Roloway monkeys are only found in Cote d'Ivoire east of a specific river and isolated pockets in Western Ghana. Presumably in the 1600s, somebody in the Dutch Gold Coast captured a Roloway monkey, and a spot nosed guenon, and a Campbell's monkey, and a whole bunch of other monkeys, and brought them to the Netherlands. I assume somebody taxidermied them when they died, because the same monkeys seem to show up over and over.

Someday when I'm resting on my laurels as a tenured professor, I'd like to actually take up the question of provenance of all these singerie monkeys. The Louvre's website calls the monkeys in the painting Two Monkeys Stealing Fruit" capuchin monkeys, which they are not - one is a Roloway monkey, and the other is probably a Campbell's monkey.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:56 AM on May 25 [37 favorites]


I just had an epiphany about the societal relevance of your specialized work, ChuraChura. Wow, imagine the implications when mapping old skool trade routes based on monkey population distributions.
posted by hugbucket at 5:27 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


I think he’s missed the point of globalization. Things that are valuable *because* they’re foreign are just souvenirs. Globalization means removing the cachet of "foreign" entirely.

(Or maybe not, but that’s how I’ve always thought of it)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:06 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]


International trade goes way further back:
Glass beads link King Tutankhamun and Bronze Age Nordic women
I think the point of the article is that there was never a "pure" national state, here as shown in art, but there are obviously tons of other examples. This may seem obvious to many mefites, but unfortunately there are ethno-nationalists all over the world these days, who worship the imagined purity of nations and regions.
posted by mumimor at 6:13 AM on May 25 [11 favorites]


You see it in furniture too. Most of the surviving European (or at least British) furniture prior to this era is coffers, large table and throne like chairs...stuff that was owned by the "head of the house". It seems like more personal furniture, like a chest of drawers, was a Chinese idea and to fluctuating degree, has followed and re-interpreted Chinese styles. You see tons of examples from the late 1600s onward.

If you look at the engravings from this era too, the wider world was selling point... exotic plants and animals, strange foreign costumes and architecture, grotesque tortures, disfigurements, ...and tons of porny stuff masquerading as classical art.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:48 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about the Starbucks cup you can see next to one of the peasants in "The Harvesters".
posted by betweenthebars at 8:57 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


So this comes up, in a roundabout way, in the most recent episode of Trashfuture. The discussion was about Jeff Bezos talking abut how humanity can just expand to SPACE and have “dynamism” in what was clearly just half remembered episodes of The Jetsons and the guest pointed out this is just what Europe has been doing since about the 1500s, the burgeoning capitalist class expanded rapidly by using the cheap land, cheap resources, cheap and or exploited labor of the frontier and colonies and also strip out the luxury objects of the places raided. Every time there’s been a conflict from coming up against a hard limit or pushed against a wall the response is to just find another frontier or new class of people to exploit.

We’re in “late capitalism” now because there are no new frontiers and the hard limit we’re up against is the ability if the planet to sustain human life so, much like his WW1 was the colonial violence of the fringes and edge of empire coming home, the exploitation and asset-stripping is happening internally and increasingly rapidly and the only thing the masters of the world, the people benefiting the most from this system can imagine is moving outward, into a total fantasy of endless exploitable resources and growth where their dreams of seastedding are even dumber cause there’s no oxygen, because that’s less of a threat to their way if life.
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on May 25 [19 favorites]


Am I the only one who can’t load the page at all without disabling content blockers? I’m afraid the world of advertising is increasingly hosting the content using the same CDNs as the ads. So... not going to read it, even though I wanted to.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:51 AM on May 25


"I think he’s missed the point of globalization. Things that are valuable *because* they’re foreign are just souvenirs. Globalization means removing the cachet of "foreign" entirely.

(Or maybe not, but that’s how I’ve always thought of it)
"

No, that's not the point of globalization, especially not in these contexts. Globalization is kinda complicated, but the barest definition is the most self-evident: Internationalizing contact, culture and trade. It's basically the opposite of parochialism, isolationism and nationalism.

In this context, it's heavily bound up with colonialism, exoticism and orientalism, the latter two involving significant value to be added by the perception of resources expended in distribution and unequal access — that an object is especially valuable because its distance from origin (either physically, culturally or semantically) makes it a more exclusive possession.

It can also refer to the alienation of goods from a localized production source for consumers — I think that gets at your description of removing the cachet of the foreign — where eg t-shirts are manufactured in Bangladesh or Guatemala to take advantage of relatively low labor costs but designed for the tastes of relatively wealthy "global North" consumers. There's no cachet in having a t-shirt with a tag that says it was made in China. There is cachet (though this depends on audience) from having a t-shirt that represents the idea of relatively expensive (materially or culturally) access to China. One example is t-shirts with ostensibly exotic renderings of Coca-Cola labels. They're souvenirs in one sense (which I tend to think of as objects intended to recall or remind one of a trip); in another, they're a signal of cultural and material capital to others. Globalization, in this context, is necessary in order for audiences to understand the value implied by those objects.
posted by klangklangston at 12:07 PM on May 25 [5 favorites]


The history of food stuffs can also be a good indication of early globilization.
Cloves, native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia had made it to Mesopotamia by 1,700 BCE and Pliny wrore about them in the 1st century CE.
Nutmeg, which originates from the Banda Islands in Southeast Asia, was introduced to Europe in the 6th century BCE.
Banana's might quite possibly have been the first cultivated fruit Farmers in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea first domesticated bananas which spread across the Indian ocean to Madagascar possibly by the first millennium BCE and on to W. Africa.
In 327 BC, when Alexander The Great and his army invaded India, he discovered banana crops in the Indian Valleys.
The Mango can be traced to India up to 2000 BCE Mango was brought to East Asia around 400–500 BCE, in the 15th century to the Philippines, and in the 16th century to Africa and Brazil by Portuguese explorers.
posted by adamvasco at 12:53 PM on May 25 [11 favorites]


> Am I the only one who can’t load the page at all without disabling content blockers? I’m afraid the world of advertising is increasingly hosting the content using the same CDNs as the ads. So... not going to read it, even though I wanted to.

I am not having this problem with The Scotsman's website (using a combo of PiHole and uBlock Origin), though it's certainly something I've experienced on other sites.
posted by ardgedee at 2:02 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


And then there is this fascinating history of saffron which was an article of long-distance trade before Crete's Minoan palace culture reached a peak in the 2nd millennium BC.
posted by adamvasco at 6:48 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]


Globalization is kinda complicated, but the barest definition is the most self-evident: Internationalizing contact, culture and trade. It's basically the opposite of parochialism, isolationism and nationalism.

I don't think this is a terribly useful way of thinking about it at all. The number of cultures which practiced true isolationism throughout history would be very few. I bet even the peoples we know think of as "isolated" had contacts with neighboring peoples prior to colonization. Pointing at international trade in the sixteenth century (which, not to be mean, has not exactly ever been a secret) and saying "globalization!" just gives a misleading impression.
posted by praemunire at 8:13 PM on May 25


Peoples we *now think of...
posted by praemunire at 8:21 PM on May 25


Kinda weak though, just a few Chinese vases on old masters? I mean, there was Marco Polo. Don't think this is really new, nor globalization in anything like its current meaning.
posted by blue shadows at 8:22 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


I invite all to a thought experiment: the center of world trade for millennia was Asia and particularly China, where the greatest accumulation of wealth, the glitziest consumer products, the flashiest technology, and the most active markets were to be found. Europe was a backwater until the New World silver mines gave them something to trade and got them access to Asian markets. Actually it's not a thought-experiment, but a reasonable account of the history, as laid out by e.g. André Gunder Frank in _ReOrient_ (1998). Globalization looks very different under this framework, as a slight modification (but not slight to European observers) and quantitative boom of worldwide business as usual.
posted by homerica at 10:04 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]


"I don't think this is a terribly useful way of thinking about it at all."

Ok

"The number of cultures which practiced true isolationism throughout history would be very few."

So?

I bet even the peoples we know think of as "isolated" had contacts with neighboring peoples prior to colonization."

Not super relevant.

Pointing at international trade in the sixteenth century (which, not to be mean, has not exactly ever been a secret) and saying "globalization!" just gives a misleading impression.

Feel like you're kinda blaming me for your misled impression, when it also feels like you didn't really read what I wrote.

Not to be mean, but if you think I was saying that I had discovered 16th century international trade, you may have benefited from another read.
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 PM on May 27


"Kinda weak though, just a few Chinese vases on old masters? I mean, there was Marco Polo. Don't think this is really new, nor globalization in anything like its current meaning."

It's not new; this article is kinda weak. And you can argue that Polo's globe just got expanded under the Italian Renaissance, though one of the things the article doesn't mention is that the blue and white porcelain was made primarily for export — it was even illegal to sell within China for a while.

The new news of the article is just that this painter who painted the blue and white china, he inherited that from his mom rather than seeing it in a court, implying it had a broader distribution than previously thought but not by much. The "globalization" angle is just to make people click on some random art history paper.
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


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