Harvesting the Globe: Materializing Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century

Parsons School of Design: Sch. Art and Dsgn Hist and Th

Liberal Arts
Graduate Course
Degree Students
Materializing Empire in 18th C
Spring 2024
Taught By: Tracy Ehrlich
Section: A

CRN: 14598

Credits: 3

In 1737 the Italian polymath Francesco Algarotti, who dedicated himself to advancing human knowledge through empirical study of the natural world, celebrated the eighteenth century as a “century of things.” The mobility of materials and things in a period of intensifying global contact and conquest is the subject of this seminar, our project a return to the origin point of objects. More than in any earlier period, in the eighteenth century the world economy expanded across the globe. A vast array of natural resources was extracted from earth and sea – including seeds, shells, pearls, and sugar as well as silver, ivory, cotton, tropical hardwoods, feathers, spices, pigments, coffee, tea, and tobacco. Our goal is to understand objects by unspooling their biographical threads, by returning to the loci of material extraction, examining the exploitation of human resources and consequent social and ecological devastation, tracing networks of trade and the perils of transportation, and investigating the manipulation and mutation of raw substances into material goods, often luxury goods for European consumption. This seminar considers the three areas across the globe where Europeans founded colonies – that is, Asia, Africa, and the Americas – and the ultimate paradox of a time that coupled global expansion and intercultural exchange with human and natural depletion and disruption. This course endeavors to understand the ways in which materials acquired new contexts and meanings, and the relationship between object agency and the human will to dominate.

Open to: All university graduate degree students.

College: Parsons School of Design (PS)

Department: Sch. Art and Dsgn Hist and Th (ADHT)

Campus: Course in NY, not on campus (NN)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 15

Add/Drop Deadline: February 4, 2024 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2024 (Tuesday)

Seats Available: No

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 1:44am EDT 5/25/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Tuesday
Times: 1:55pm - 3:45pm
Building: TBD
Room: TBD
Date Range: 1/23/2024 - 5/7/2024