Local Subversions of Colonial Cultures

Edited by Sandip Hazareesingh and Harro Maat, Local Subversions of Colonial Cultures: Commodities and Anti-Commodities in Global History was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016. This book brings together original, state-of-the-art historical research from several continents and examines how mainly local peasant societies responded to colonial pressures to produce a range of different commodities for distant markets. It shows how producers were often able to subvert these processes in their quest for viable alternative livelihoods. In particular, it introduces the fresh concept of the ‘anti-commodity’, to indicate local, sustainable forms of production steeped in values other than simply economic ones. The book will appeal to readers eager to find out more about the histories of some familiar items of everyday consumption such as rice, cotton, sugar and tobacco, as well as to those with a keen interest in the histories and cultures of African, Asian and Caribbean societies. Finally, it offers new directions in both historical and contemporary research on the continents beyond Europe.

The book is a result of the Commodities and Anticommodities project, in which Commodities of Empire was involved in collaboration with the University of Wageningen.


Paul Richards, ‘Rice as Commodity and Anti-Commodity’

Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff, ‘Yellow Tobacco, Black Tobacco: Indigenous (desi) Tobacco as an Anti-Commodity’

Harro Maat, ‘Upland and Lowland Rice in the Netherlands Indies’

Jonathan Curry-Machado, ‘Anti-Commodity Counterpoint: Smallholder Diversity and Rural Development on the Cuban Sugar Frontier’

Sandip Hazareensingh, ‘”Your Foreign Plants are Very Delicate”: Peasant Crop Ecologies and the Subversion of Colonial Cotton Designs in Dharwar, Western India’

Lauren Minsky, ‘Sanitising Commercialisation: Health and the Politics of “Waste” in Colonial Punjab’

David Hyde, ‘East African Railways and Harbours 1945-1960: From “Crisis of Accumulation” to Labour Resistance’

Erik Gilbert, ‘Rice, Civilisation and the Swahili Towns: Anti-Commodity and Anti-State?”

Simeon Maravanyika, ‘”Shun the White Man’s Crop”: Shangwe Grievances, Religious Leaders and Cotton Cultivation in North-Western Zimbabwe’