Capitalism and the New Materialism - 17.5.2017

Workshop with Seth Rockman and Sven Beckert

For scholars interested in the enduring questions of historical materialism and the class relations of capitalism, are there new analytical possibilities from “thinking with things” and “making matter matter”? Beyond this deceptively simple question is the observation that scholars working across multiple disciplines have been lavishing attention on artifacts, environment, and the embeddedness of human experience in a matrix of networks and assemblages. Much of this work has been grouped under the heading of “New Materialism,” but its implications for historians are still emerging. Participants in this workshop will read Seth Rockman’s essay on the shoes manufactured for and worn by slaves in the nineteenth-century United States. The conversation will focus on the opportunities and limitations the so-called “New Materialism” for historical research, with students considering the ways that the questions and provocations of the “material turn” may inform their own scholarship.

Organized by: Department of History, Institute for European Global Studies, Basel Graduate School of History


Seth Rockman is Associate Professor of History at Brown University. His research focuses on US economic history in the 19th century. Rockman is the author of "Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore". He is currently writing a new book about shoes, shovels, hats, and hoes manufactured in the North for use on Southern slave plantations.

Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University. He researches and teaches the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political and transnational dimensions. He just published "Empire of Cotton: A Global History", the first global history of the nineteenth century’s most important commodity.

Prof. Rockman and Prof. Beckert have recently co-edited "Slavery's Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development".

Where & When

Wednesday, 17 May 2017: 9.00 am - 12.30 am. You are kindly invited to join us for lunch.

Institute for European Global Studies, University of Basel, Gellertstrasse 27, 4052 Basel

Furthermore, you are kindly invited to participate in the lecture wich Prof. Sven Beckert will hold on "Gewalt und die Entstehung des modernen Kapitalismus"
(Tuesday, 16 May, 6-8 pm, Department of History, Hirschgässlein 21, 4051 Basel)


For all participants: Register via Flexiform no later than 7.5.17

For doctoral students aiming to earn 1 ETCS point: additionally via MOnA