Universiteit Leiden

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From Ship to Shore: Commercial Privilege and Material Culture in Eighteenth Century Yemen

  • Nancy Um
Friday 6 April 2018
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

Material objects played a key role in mediating the social world of overseas merchants in the deeply commercial and maritime societies around the rims of the Red Sea and the western Indian Ocean in the eighteenth century.  While foreign goods, such as Chinese porcelain, imported textiles, horses, coffee, and spices, were highly desirable in the marketplaces of the Arabian Peninsula, these objects were not just commodities. In this talk, I will demonstrate how such items were deployed in ceremonial activities in the early modern port of Mocha. Subject to site-specific hierarchies of commercial privilege, these objects thus exceeded their commercial character and their transactional value.

Nancy Um is professor in the department of art history and co-director of the Middle East and North Africa Studies Program at Binghamton University. Her research explores the Islamic world from the perspective of the coast, with a focus on material, visual, and built culture on the Arabian Peninsula and around the rims of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. She is the author of The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009) and Shipped but not Sold: Material Culture and the Social Protocols of Trade during Yemen’s Age of Coffee (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017).


Professor Nancy Um

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