Commodity, culture and colonialism are intimately related and mutually constitutive. The desire for commodities drove colonial expansion at the same time that colonial expansion fuelled technological invention, created new markets for goods, displaced populations and transformed local and indigenous cultures in dramatic and often violent ways.

This book analyses the transformation of local cultures in the context of global interaction in the period 1851–1914. By focusing on episodes in the social and cultural lives of commodities, it explores some of the ways in which commodities shaped the colonial cultures of global modernity. Chapters by experts in the field examine the production, circulation, display and representation of commodities in various regional and national contexts, and draw on a range of theoretical and disciplinary approaches.

An integrated, coherent and urgent response to a number of key debates in postcolonial and Victorian studies, world literature and imperial history, this book will be of interest to researchers with interests in migration, commodity culture, colonial history and transnational networks of print and ideas.

chapter |12 pages


BySupriya Chaudhuri, Josephine McDonagh, Brian H. Murray, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan

part I|61 pages

Making and showing

chapter 1|18 pages

Mughal Delhi on my lapel

The charmed life of the painted ivory miniature in Delhi, 1827–1880
ByYuthika Sharma

chapter 2|11 pages

Plates and bangles

Early recorded music in India
ByAmlan Das Gupta

chapter 3|15 pages

The Overland Mail

Moving panoramas and the imagining of trade and communication networks
ByJohn Plunkett

chapter 4|16 pages

Exhibiting India

Colonial subjects, imperial objects, and the lives of commodities
BySupriya Chaudhuri

part II|39 pages

Place and environment

chapter 5|13 pages

The composition and decomposition of commodities

The colonial careers of coal and ivory
ByStephen Muecke

chapter 6|12 pages

Profaning water

The sacred and its others
ByRajeswari Sunder Rajan

chapter 7|13 pages

Settling the land

The village and the threat of capital in the novel in Goa
ByRochelle Pinto

part III|47 pages

Labour and migration

chapter 8|15 pages

(Re)moving bodies

People, ships and other commodities in the coolie trade from Calcutta
ByNilanjana Deb

chapter 9|16 pages

Anxiety, affect and authenticity

The commodification of nineteenth-century emigrants’ letters
ByFariha Shaikh

chapter 10|15 pages

Towards a genealogy of the village in the nineteenth-century British colonial world

Mary Russell Mitford and Henry Sumner Maine
ByJosephine McDonagh

part IV|51 pages

Texts in motion

chapter 11|13 pages

Indigo and print

The case of the ‘Indigo-Planting Mirror’
ByAbhijit Gupta

chapter 12|10 pages

Al jabr w’al muqabila

H.S. Hall, Macmillan and the coming together of things far apart
ByRimi B. Chatterjee

chapter 13|15 pages

Ulysses in ‘darkest Africa’

Transporting Tennyson with H.M. Stanley and Edwin Arnold
ByBrian H. Murray

chapter 14|12 pages

The traffic in representations

The case of Kipling’s Kim
ByIsobel Armstrong