Globalization is commonly viewed as a late-20th century phenomena, but the roots of globalization and the origins of the global economy are centuries old. How did global connectivity come to be?  The emergence of world networks is intimately tied to processes of colonialism that began in the 15th century, and perhaps even earlier. This seminar uses anthropological and archaeological approaches to examine the processes of colonialism in the 15th through 19th centuries that lead the emergence of the global economy as we experience it today.

The seminar incorporates readings, both popular and scholarly, from anthropology, archaeology, history, and ethnohistory, to introduce students to the history of colonialism, particularly in the Americas. Readings will cover a number of important topics including the history of research, epidemic disease, flora and fauna, economics and labor, ethnicity and ethnogenesis, slavery, gender, sexuality, and agency in colonial contexts. Students will also be given the opportunity to explore the reverberations of colonialism in their own daily lives, including the foods we eat, the music we listen to, and the lives we experience in the “post-colonial” Americas. By the end of the seminar, students will gain the ability to place the material aspects of their personal lives in the context of 500 years of colonialism.

Types of Assignments:

  • Research paper in which they trace the colonial origins of all of the ingredients of a meal they eat at home or (preferably) at a local restaurant.
  • A class presentation based on their “food” paper (food samples encouraged).
  • In-class group activities to explore archaeological methods and interpretation.
  • Several brief response papers in which students reflect on assigned readings.
  • Research paper based on one of the topics covered in class.


Possible Readings:

Primary archaeological and anthropological research published in scholarly academic journals, in addition to major works written for a broader audience, including:

  • Crosby, Alfred W. 1986. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. 2015. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (ReVisioning American History). Beacon Press, Boston, MA.
  • Mann, Charles C. 2005. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.
  • Mann, Charles C. 2011. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Alfred A. Knopf New York, NY.
  • Robinson, Kim Stanley. 2003. The Years of Rice and Salt. Bantam Books, New York, NY.