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Framings of Capitalism and the Archaeology of Sugar in the Islamic Mediterranean

  • Ian R. SimpsonEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Seeking to widen the constellation of pasts in studies of capitalism, this article contributes to interventions into the dominant narratives and frameworks in the history of capitalism. It discusses Western historiography and historicism in relation to the role that Islamic cultural geographies and sugar, as an iconic commodity, have played in the history of European capitalism and colonialism. This alternative rendition of sugar brings together significant archaeological and historical sources of sugar production in Egypt and Syria-Palestine during the medieval and Ottoman periods. Islamic sugar production and markets are discussed in relation to Western framings of historical capitalism, global commodities, unequal exchange, and capital accumulation. Questioning modernity’s framing of history and capitalism, this article offers a view of more diverse and changing configurations of interaction, and suggests a shift in analytical emphasis to market exchange in the past in order to make comparisons between commercial and market-oriented societies.

Keywords

sugar production labor market exchange decolonizing European historiography medieval and Ottoman archaeology 

Extracto

Con el objetivo de ampliar la constelación de pasados en los estudios del capitalismo, este artículo contribuye a las intervenciones en las narrativas y marcos dominantes en la historia del capitalismo. Aborda la historiografía e historicismo occidentales en relación con el papel que las geografías culturales islámicas y el azúcar, como una mercancía icónica, han desempeñado en la historia del capitalismo y colonialismo europeo. Esta versión alternativa del azúcar reúne importantes fuentes arqueológicas e históricas de la producción de azúcar en Egipto y Siria-Palestina durante los períodos medieval y otomano. La producción y los mercados islámicos de azúcar se discuten en relación con los marcos occidentales del capitalismo histórico, los productos básicos mundiales, el intercambio desigual y la acumulación de capital. Al cuestionar el marco establecido por la modernidad de la historia y del capitalismo, este artículo ofrece una visión de configuraciones de interacción más diversas y cambiantes, y sugiere un cambio en el énfasis analítico al intercambio de mercado en el pasado para hacer comparaciones entre sociedades comerciales y orientadas hacia el mercado.

Résumé

S'efforçant d'élargir la constellation des études passées sur le capitalisme, cet article contribue aux interventions au sein des narrations et cadres dominants dans l'histoire du capitalisme. Il traite de l'historiographie et de l'historicisme occidentaux en lien avec le rôle que les géographies culturelles islamiques et le sucre, en tant que marchandise iconique, ont joué dans l'histoire du capitalisme et du colonialisme européens. Cette interprétation alternative du sucre associe des sources archéologiques et historiques importantes sur la production du sucre en Égypte et en Syrie-Palestine durant les périodes médiévale et ottomane. La production et les marchés du sucre islamiques sont traités en lien avec les cadres occidentaux du capitalisme historique, des matières premières mondiales, des échanges inégalitaires et de l'accumulation du capital. Par une interrogation des cadres de l'histoire et du capitalisme par la modernité, cet article propose un aperçu de configurations d'interactions plus diverses et changeantes. Il suggère un changement dans l'emphase analytique sur les échanges commerciaux du passé pour effectuer des comparaisons entre les sociétés commerciales et orientés sur les marchés.

Notes

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© Society for Historical Archaeology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leiden UniversityLeidenthe Netherlands

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