Title change: Through a Camera Obscura: Economic Science and the Emergence of the Market in Colonial Egypt


Monday, April 17, 2017, 4:15pm to 6:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The CES/CMES Colonial Encounters Working Group presents

Casey PrimelCasey Primel
Volkswagen Postdoctoral Fellow, Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, Harvard University

This talk explores how the market emerged as an object of social scientific inquiry in Egypt at the beginning of the twentieth century. Rather than the natural unfolding of economic rationality or the inherent logic of capital, the emergence of the market was a much more earthly affair tied to the rising prominence of stock and commodity exchanges in economic life and the changing nature of the Egyptian countryside. In the wake of financial and ecological crises, colonial elites, Egyptian and expatriate alike, drew on the emerging discipline of economics to comprehend and reorder economic life. By embedding new technologies for visualizing the activity of distant exchanges into the countryside, their work invested the market with a new generality. The presentation traces this colonial genealogy of the market and argues for a history attuned to how new techniques for visualizing and representing economic life have shaped past economies. 

Casey Primel is a historian working at the junctures of science and technology studies, the history of capitalism and postcolonial studies. His research focuses on the history of political economy and engineering in modern Egypt. He is currently a Volkswagen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard.

(This event was originally scheduled for February 27; the original title was "Mechanizing the Flow: Machines & Politics on the Nile Before the British Occupation")

Sponsors: CES/CMES Colonial Encounters Working Group
Contact: Liz Flanagan