Counter-Currents and World History Narratives
A conference of the University of California World History Workshop
(supported by the UC President's Office)

December 6-7, 2003.

Full Program


Andrew Apter, UCLA

Creole Divides: Race, Class and Ritual Stratification in Afro-Caribbean



This paper explores a marked bifurcation between putatively African and Creole deities in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé. Because each division occurred independently of the others, together they represent an important historical dimension of creolization in the non-Anglophone Caribbean, revealing how ideologies of Africa mediated color stratification in the colonies. The paper locates a generative West African cultural scheme within the early period of the plantation economies, to illuminate their transformations into peasantries and the rise of 'high' and 'low' social strata.


Shobana Shankar, New School for Social Research/University of Connecticut

Conversion and the Problem of World Religion in Nigeria


The qualifications of Christian and Muslim movements in Nigeria as splinter or independent churches, third wave Pentecostalism, millennial Islam, or Africanized syncretisms by mainstream observers suggests that integration into the fold of world religions has not always been neat. This paper looks at Nigerian debates over orthodoxy and syncretism, and in particular at interactions with foreign Christian missions that have so profoundly shaped modern religiosity in many regions of Africa since European colonization. I argue that the primacy placed on conversion during the colonial era has profoundly shaped heterodoxy and responses to it. Also examined are the postcolonial ramifications of missionization through the testimonies of Nigerian evangelists, both Muslim and Christian, and recent converts.


Wade Graham, UCLA

Environmental Stress and Social Evolution: Two Experiences of Settlement from

Molokai, Hawai'i


This paper compares the environmental/economic feedback effects of two experiences of settlement on a small, remote island (Molokai): the Polynesian from 400 BCE and the Euro-American after Contact. Briefly, both civilizations radically and quickly altered ecosystems, which responded by pushing the human economies into tightly defined limits. While the two episodes were not identical, there was a clear and common feedback between agricultural expansion, ecosystem change, and socioeconomic structuring in each. Striking similarities emerge from such a comparison: both cases demonstrate similar political trajectories (toward stratification and monopoly control of resources) as effects of human-induced ecosystem change, separated by a thousand years, from the stone age to modern industrial capitalism.


            Alexandra Epstein, UC Irvine

                        Looking West: California Women and Visions of the World.


In the years immediately after World War I, a host of feminist activists in California, like their East Coast counterparts, shifted their focus from domestic to international activism. Geographically removed from the center of Euro-American feminist activism in New York, London, and Geneva, some California activists developed a different worldview than their Eastern 'sisters' on by placing the Pacific at the forefront. In this paper, I will explore this worldview through they eyes of two prominent northern California civic activists: Emma McLaughlin (1880-1968), administrator for the Bay Area Institute for Pacific Relations, and Aurelia Reinhardt (1877-1948), the President of Mills College. Reinhardt and McLaughlin believed in the importance of the Pacific region to the maintenance of a lasting peace. Traveling in the Pacific and attending conferences, these women tried to enhance the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Pacific nations. Peace in the Pacific, these women believed, was essential to a world without war. Furthermore, they took an interest in promoting the fair treatment of Japanese Americans at a time of pervasive nativism in the United States, and particularly in California.


Elena Shulman, UCLA

The Makings of a New Motherland: Women's Labors on the Soviet Frontier, 1937-1939


This paper examines a 1930s Soviet program to attract young single women to move to the Soviet Far East, a sparsely populated region located along the Pacific Ocean in Northeast Asia, and the womenÕs own perceptions of their place in frontier life and Soviet civilization building. Faced with a vigorous settlement and development program on the part of the Japanese in Manchuria, the Soviet government launched this campaign to attract women to address high turnover rates among settlers by ameliorating the region's persistently skewed gender ratios. The manner in which this migratory endeavor unfolded and the destiny of those who took part provide exceptional platforms for investigating themes in Soviet women's history. Based on letters from prospective migrants, letters to authorities from new settlers, memoirs of participants, official reports from campaign organizers and sources on the topic from Soviet mass media, this study advances our knowledge of life in newly built settlements and gender dynamics within the Soviet system. I draw from scholarly research on women in other frontier societies such as nineteenth-century United States and New Zealand to trace themes in the history of gender and settlement across regional and temporal boundaries.


Christopher Chase-Dunn & Daniel Pasciuti, University of California, Riverside
               City and Empire Growth/Decline Phases in the Ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian World-Systems


While there have been systemic relations among different peoples since at least the first human settlements by the Natufians some twelve thousand years ago, the logic of these intersocietal systems has changed over time. We contend that some of the peoples who have been semiperipheral in the ancient world-systems were the agents that brought about the transformations of developmental logics. The formation, differentiation, and development of nomadic peoples in tandem with sedentary states and empires played a crucial role. Nomads were also often the catalysts of systemic change in these systems.

Karl Butzer observed, with respect to Levantine processes, that the existence of cycles is prima facie evidence of some sort of system. We have noted that world-systems or core-periphery systems are marked by a number of such cycles. Prime among them is pulsation, the tendency to expand and contract, or at least expand more, and then less, rapidly through time. In Rise and Demise (1997) Chase-Dunn and Hall showed that there was such coordination of cycles across Afroeurasia for several millennia. Following the work of David Wilkinson on the Central Civilization, we note that Mesopotamia and Egypt eventually became part of one larger system. As this merger occurredÑin itself a cyclical processÑwe would expect various cycles to come into association, what physical scientists call entraining. This does not necessarily mean that they danced to precisely the same rhythm. They may have moved countrapuntally or in syncopation. Still, such coincidence should be apparent in correlations of major processes: territorial size of polity, size of population, population density, political



Dennis O. Flynn and Arturo Giráldez, University of Pacific

Path Dependence, Time Lags and the Birth of Globalisation: A Critique

of O'Rourke and Williamson


In a recent issue of the European Review of Economic History, economists Kevin O'Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson dismiss claims by "World historians [who] argue that globalization is a phenomenon which stretches back several centuries, or even several millennia." Rather, O'Rourke and Williamson insist that "globalisation did not begin 5,000 years ago, or even 500 years ago. It began in the early nineteenth century. In that sense, it is a very modern phenomenon." O'Rourke and Williamson offer an explicit model of world trade that predicts specific outcomes; and they marshal empirical evidence to support their contention that there was no global economy until the early decades of the nineteenth century. O'Rourke and Williamson define the key term "'globalisation' [as] the integration of international commodity markets," and they conclude that "the only irrefutable evidence that globalisation is taking place is a decline in the international dispersion of commodity prices or what might be called commodity price convergence." We are unconvinced by the authors' argument. Generally speaking, evolutionary thinking based upon path dependence tells us that seemingly unimportant events can sometimes cause transformations of epic proportions. We maintain that econometric analyses, such as that proposed by O'Rourke and Williamson, are unable to account for the global transformations described in this essay.


David Christian, San Diego State University

                        What is History? Revisited


World History by its very nature tends to look for the large picture behind the fragments of modern knowledge.  So it is natural for World Historians to be particularly interested in large questions such as the relationship between History and Science.  I will argue that this is a good time to revisit such questions as views of science have shifted as well as views of history.  I will suggest that, through the questions posed within World History, it may be possible to clarify the relationship of History to Science and, by doing so, to identify core historical ideas that may, like a Kuhnian paradigm, help us clarify the research agendas of History, and the Humanities in general.


Maia Ramnath, UCSC

The Tale of George Thomas: Mercenaries, Mayhem and Statebuilding in

Post-Mughal India


George Thomas was an Irish-born mercenary warlord active in politically chaotic northern India in the last two decades of the 18th century. Although he was one of several thousand European free lances who participated in the ever-shifting conflict of rival polities and would-be polities amid the disintegration of the Mughal empire, he was the only one who attempted to institutionalize his own state. Following a love affair with a queen and Mughal vassal, and successful campaigns on behalf of her, himself, or various Maratha warlords, Thomas surrendered to a French/Indian mercenary force after a last-ditch siege of his personal fortress. He died not long afterward, just before the Anglo-Maratha Wars definitively closed the window of fluidity between the stability of a quasi-feudal, regional tributary empire, and India's incorporation into a modern imperium of global commerce. As social biography, ThomasÕs story is intriguing enough for its credulity-flexing melodrama of battle, betrayal, and romance. But it also illuminates a critical transitional moment in Indian colonial history, when processes of military modernization, changing concepts of state sovereignty, and the dynamics of European/native interaction were still in flux. Outside the boundaries of established nation-state discipline, maverick lives like ThomasÕs could yet forge their own rules.


Kevin MacDonald, UCSC

'A Man of Courage and Activity': Thomas Tew, Anglo-American Piracy,

and the New York-to-Madgascar Trade Network, 1690-1720


In the narrative mode of social biography, this paper explores the life of

Rhode Island-born sea captain, Thomas Tew, one of the first Anglo-Americans to

enter the rich trading grounds of the Indian Ocean, to commit piracy on the

high seas. Sponsored by New York Colonel Governor Benjamin Fletcher, Tew's

initial spectacular raid against Mughal shipping in 1692 opened the door to a

subsequent flood of Anglo-American pirates to the Indian Ocean region, resulting in

a New York-to-Madagascar trade network involving Malagasy slaves and pirate

booty (bullion, jewels, silks, spices) in return for manufactured goods.

This paper will explore the Anglo-Malagasy settlements that sprung up on

Madagascar in the wake of Tew, and reconsider the role of pirates as colonial

defenders, traders and cultural brokers in the early modern period.


Anders Otterness, UCSC

'El quatro se llama Estevanico; es negro alarabe, natural de Azemmour': Estevan, North African, Iberian, and Native Slavery in the North American Southwest, 1528-1540


Utilizing the narrative format of social biography, this paper follows the life of Estevan, a North African-born Spanish slave. This paper will explore how slavery acted as a vehicle of movement, connecting through its nature three continents and a multitude of cultures and societies. As one of the four surviving members of the 1528 Panfilo de Narvaez expedition to Florida chronicled by Cabeza de Vaca and his subsequent role in the 1539 search for the Cibola, EstevanÕs near decade among Native Americans along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is that of an early transfrontiersman. Having the ability to Òmake known the unknownÓ lands of New Spain, the biography of Estevan draws attention to both the fluidity of slavery and its cultural basis of control.


            Alan Christy, UC Santa Cruz

            Being Non-viable: Okinawa and World History


Much of the effort to rethink and rewrite World History has been driven by a reaction against the Eurocentrism that dominated the old "Rise of the West" paradigms of World History. Although China played a significant role in the older versions (as the counterpart civilization that proved the "triumph of the West"), recent work, by several China scholars in particular, has challenged Eurocentrism by rejecting the easy East-West dichotomy and substituting other frames of comparison and differentiation. While I find that effort very illuminating and inspiring, I have one nagging doubt that I would like to explore with colleagues at the World History MRG. My concern is that while the "Euro" frame has been severely undermined, I am not yet clear on whether the "centrism" format of World History has successfully been displaced. In order to address that concern, I would like to explore the possibility of writing World History from a place that could never possibly conceive of itself, nor stand for others, as a world center. As an initial step toward that larger project, I will present a critical survey of the major works in Japanese and English that have addressed the historical relationship of Okinawa to the rest of the world. By examining how Okinawan material has been used (and abused) for such world historical issues as the history of capitalism, the history of the family, the history of religion and the histories of trade and political forms, I would like to consider the possibilities of a World History without a center. In particular, I will directly address one of the most consistent motifs throughout the literature: the presumption of Okinawa's inability, because of its geography, to stand on its own (or conversely, its need for outside assistance).


            Martin W. Lewis, Stanford University

Cores, Peripheries, and Counter-Cores: The Philippines in World History


A careful examination of the Philippines reveals a number of problems associated with the rigid application of core/periphery models in world history.  In conventional scholarship, the Philippines is portrayed as marginal to Southeast Asia – which in turn is marginalized in comparisons with East and South Asia. Within the Philippines, areas outside of central Luzon are often depicted as relatively unimportant peripheries, while so-called tribal zones become the ultimate boondocks, completely disconnected from world historical processes. In the late pre-Hispanic period, however, Luzon had been tightly linked to global trading circuits, connected to Malacca by way of Mindoro and Brunei.  Traces of this lost geography can be seen in such oddities as the survival of a unique script among the Hanunoo, a small tribal group of central Mindoro.  During the Spanish era, northern Luzon remained a significant economic sphere in its own right, thanks in large part to the export of gold from the unsubdued Cordilleran highlands.  The resolutely “pagan” Cordillera can even be viewed as a counter-core in its own right, as it continued to attract immigrants from the partially Hispanicized lowlands well into the 1800s.


            Luke Clossey and Chad Denton, UC Berkeley

The Student Perspective on the Global Perspective: Reflections on an Undergraduate Seminar on the Early Modern World.

Last spring, with the help of the Berkeley GSI Teaching and Research Center's Research in Teaching Working Group, Luke Clossey developed a new course on the early modern world. Seven undergraduates are participating in it this semester. The common readings are arranged thematically by weeks (global economy, urban and rural history, legal regimes, science, religion, military, environment), and each student has chosen a region to "specialize" in for the course (China, the Atlantic World, Mughal India, Tuscany, Japan, the British colonies in America, and Geneva). Every week participants use the readings first to add another facet to our model of the early modern world, and then to ask how well their own regions of interest fit the global model. After several weeks of independent research, students will meet in a colloquium on December 2 to present their findings and to pass judgment on the viability of the early modern world as a historical phenomenon.

Our paper discusses the genesis of the course, includes a visual presentation of how the seminar's conceptualization of the early modern world has evolved, and reveals the students' conclusions. Additional remarks are based on the teachers' own observation of the seminar's dynamics and progress. We also present the students' evaluations of the course.


Alexis Alvarez, UC Riverside

Clash of Civilizations: Cycles of Primacy in Afroeurasia, 200 - 1850 CE


How has the focus of geopolitical power throughout the Common Era been distributed across the Afroeurasian landmass? What implications does a pre-industrial civilization's Golden Age have for adjacent civilizations, and how is the historical process of Afroeurasia affected by cycles of primacy across its constituent civilizations? This paper analyzes the growth and decline trajectory of the primacy scores of three civilizations-the Islamicate, the European, and Central Asia-in the Central Political/Military Network (PMN). The concept of primacy-or consolidation of power across a territory-is operationalized on the basis of the territorial size of the largest empire in a civilization. Islamic history provides a guideline for periodization that aids in analyzing discrete stages of a cyclical process of integration and disintegration within and across civilizations. Furthermore, it allows for a qualitative investigation of key events related to the phenomenon of territorial expansion and contraction among system cores. Three stages of a cycle of political primacy are hypothesized: competitive, synchronous, and hegemonic. State-size data comprise the size of the largest state in each civilization for most of the Common Era (200 - 1850 CE). Findings point to a developmental pattern for Afroeurasia involving several continent-wide shifts in power charted as oscillations along the three stages of the PMN's primacy cycle.


George Bryan Souza, University of Texas, San Antonio & Indiana University

Dyeing Red: Southeast Asian Sappanwood in the Seventeenth and

Eighteenth Centuries


"Dyeing Red" comments on the economic, cultural and environmental history of Southeast Asian sappanwood in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Known in Asia and Europe from ancient and medieval times as one of nature' sources of red dye for textile production, sappanwood was demanded and successfully competed with alternative natural-vegetable, insect and mineral-red dye raw material sources in the early modern period. Growing naturally throughout Asia, especially in S.E. Asia, supplies of Caesaralpina sappan from Sumbawa, Thailand and the Philippines were cut, delivered and entered Global and inter- Asian market circuits.


This paper surveys the primary economic factors for the commodification, regionalization and globalization of Southeast Asian sappanwood. This is accomplished by examining the general Global and inter-Asian demand for red dyeing materials and S.E. Asia sappanwoodÕs position vis-a-vis regional and global sources of red dye raw materials. This paper comments on the availability and local organization of the supply of the commodity and examines the delivery and sale of S.E. Asian sappanwood at the colonial port city of Batavia and its commercialization, primarily, by the Dutch East India Company in Europe and Asia. This case study establishes that S.E. Asian sappanwood was a commodity that was globalized via its use in Europe and regionalized through Dutch and other trader's efforts from Iran to India to Japan in the early modern period. This paper concludes with a brief description of the social, cultural and environmental implications of the incorporation and exploitation of S.E. Asian sappanwood, via maritime trade in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

Full Conference Program