ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Welcome, everybody, back from lunch. I'm Eric Tagliacozzo. I'm a professor in the History department here at Cornell. And I run the comparative Muslim Societies program.
And it's my pleasure to welcome two people to our next panel. The first is the discussant, Aziz Rana, who is Professor of Law at Cornell. He's the author of an important book called Two Faces of American Freedom, which was published with Harvard UP in 2010, which looks at global histories of colonialism and the American experience within that, as well as numerous, numerous articles, a new book that's hopefully coming out soon that sounds terrific, and many essays in the New York Times, The Nation, Salon, et cetera, et cetera. He's also one of the important people in a new grouping on campus called CCID, the Cornell Consortium for Inclusive Democracy that a number of us in this room are all together in, which is kind of an attempt to keep us all on track since the election a year ago. And Aziz has really been heroic in his efforts in that organization.
And he will be the discussant for Nelly Hanna, who we'd like to very much welcome to campus. Professor Hanna is distinguished University Professor of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations at the AUC in Cairo. She's the author of numerous works on Autumn in Egypt between 1500 and 1800 among other writings.
And she's a specialist on the kind of bottom up history that we call "history from below" in the profession that looks to include many different groups in the story of any different society. She has been a visiting professor at the École de Altitude in Paris, at Harvard, at Waseda university in Japan.
And we actually met in Johannesburg at a really good conference on the history of capitalism a couple of years ago. And after hearing her speak, I remember thinking, yes, I'd like some more of that, please. So I'm very happy that we've had a chance to bring her to Cornell. So I'd like to welcome Professor Hanna.
NELLY HANNA: Thank you very much. And thank you very much to the organizers who invited me to attend this conference, which is turning out to be so interesting.
As far as the early modern period is concerned, I mean about between 1500 to 1800, the Middle East has been very little integrated in world history. And the Middle East seems to stand outside history, outside the major events, and outside the important transformations that were taking place in those three centuries, And what was the precursors to the Modern World. So I want to address this issue in my paper and see if there are any answers that we can address to face this matter.
Historians of the early modern period who have addressed the question of, how did we reach the condition we are in today? Or how did Europe become the dominant force in the present day or in the Modern World? Have somehow left out the Middle East out of this, out of their answers?
So to answer this question, the mainstream narrative goes that the Industrial Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, which led to the Modern World, to the emergence of the Modern World as we know it today, and to the emergence of Europe and to the rise of the West were based on the work of a number of great scientists who made important discoveries and important innovations. And just to name a few, we have Copernicus, and Galileo, and we have Bacon, and we have Newton. They are seen as having opened the way to the scientific-- to the Scientific Revolution.
And eventually their ideas spread to the rest of the world. Their ideas were diffused by the printing press, by trading companies, and eventually, at a later day, by the spread of colonialism. So the Modern World was the creation of a few important men who undertook major innovations in science, and medicine, and in many other scientific fields.
So a number of concepts are implicit in this view. First of all, the this view implies that everything important was taking place in Europe. Everything new was initiated in Europe and by Europeans. In other words, if we go back to the period 1600 to 1800, this narrative sees Europe as being the center of the world. And from there, ideas were diffused to the rest of the world one way or another.
The other regions-- which means the rest of the world-- the regions outside Europe were the passive recipients of European knowledge and European know-how. Of course, the world was more or less an unidentified mass, even though sometimes you see a distinction between regions like Egypt, and Persia, and China, who some time in the past may have had a very high level of civilization. In this narrative, by the time we reach 1600, 1700, 1800, all of them have fallen into decline. The rest of the world, maybe Africa, America, was really very primitive and inhabited by savages, so they never had much of a civilization.
This narrative is clearly articulated by the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper who, maybe some 40 years ago, wrote-- and hear I quote, "the history of the world for the past five centuries, insofar as it has any significance, has been European history. I do not think we need to make any apology if our study of history is European-oriented." That's 40 years ago. It is not-- his ideas are not dead.
They are perhaps less dominant than they were 40 years ago, but it is only recently that a book published by Toby Huff argues more or less along the same lines. This book was translated into 17 languages. So we can presume that the approach is still very much with us.
It is not-- it is not dead. It has not disappeared. The Eurocentric method of history writing, I think, is still with us. And I think it is-- we still need to address it and try and find counter arguments.
So one of the concepts that are implicit in the narrative I just said was that a few important scientists changed the world and were behind the creation of the modern world. There is another idea that is implicit, and this is that the important achievements of the modern world were solely the work of great men to the exclusion of other sectors of society of lesser known or anonymous figures like artisans or craftsmen. Being part of a traditional sector of society, they were described as being stagnant, unchanging in their way of work. And such groups could not have contributed to the formation of the modern world.
In brutal historical terms, this approach of the creation of knowledge leads to a top-down approach to the history of the period-- top-down both in geographical terms because Europe is on one side, and the rest of the world is on the other-- and top-down in social terms because it focuses on great men and scientific achievements of intellectuals and gives out social-- other social groups, including people who have know-how in practical matters, I mean specifically artisans.
OK, this is, in general, the subject that my paper will address. I want to address these two ideas in the context of the creation and transfer of technology. And my focus will be on the Mediterranean, North and South. And I was trying to offer a way of understanding the period 17th, 18th century in order to broaden our vision and to propose an alternative to the Eurocentric approaches that have dominated scholarship for such a long time.
My study is in line with many other revisionist works, both on the theoretical and empirical side. Some years ago, for example, an Egyptian economist-- who's not very famous, but is very important-- called Samir Amin was trying to analyze the sources for the emergence of capitalism, of modern capitalism. And he rejected the idea of there being a dynamical Europe and a stagnant East. He considered that capitalism could not be regarded as a uniquely European phenomena since many other parts of the world, like India, China, and the Islamic Middle East, the Mediterranean, all had forms of proto-capitalism. Capitalism was, in other words, a worldwide phenomenon.
Only in the later period did it develop into-- I mean, modern capitalism-- whereby you have advanced core, advanced wealthy, powerful, and a backward periphery-- by a backward, I mean weak, with a weak government with poor populations. He sees that as something which developed as of the 19th century. So I think Samir Amin's work is a theoretical work. It does not look so much at historical development. But as a theoretical work, I think he poses the-- he proposed a paradigm which was quite important and subsequently developed by a number of other historians.
There have also been a number of empirical works, and I think these are very important. They're being undertaken with regard to India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. And they have-- these studies have challenged the dominant paradigm mainly with the argument that knowledge transfer is not a one-way process, rather knowledge circulates in different directions. And consequently, the making of modern Europe was in part forged by the non-European world.
New methodologies were developed. And these have been-- these have brought to light often neglected parts of the world and have integrated them in the major transformation that took place between the 16th and 18th century. I can quote the book of Andre Gunder Frank's ReORIENT, Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History as being part of a growing body of literature that tries to integrate the peoples and the civilizations that have often been left out of the historical narrative, whether they are the natives of America or of other non-European civilizations.
These works have argued that some of the features of the modern-- of modern world history had their origins outside Europe. And there are many examples of works of this kind. I can quote the work of Christopher Bailey, for example, the English historian, who found that it was through competition of Indian textiles in the 17th and 18th century to be one of the main triggers of the British Industrial Revolution. A similar argument has been forwarded by Eric Williams. I think he was prime minister of Jamaica at one time.
Eric Williams argued that the sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 17th century have also contributed to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century for a couple of reasons. In the first place, people made a lot of money out of these sugar plantations. And consequently with this money, they could fund the developments in industry that occurred shortly after. But more important he argued that the sugar plantations were really very large enterprises. And the methods that were used in these plantations were very significant.
For example, there was a very large number of workers. There was a division of labor. There is a very strict discipline among the workers of who can do what, and watching the timing, and watching that everybody was working properly. He says all of these methods of management later became incorporated in the Industrial Revolution in England. In other words, the Caribbean plantations were perhaps a source for the methods that were used in Manchester some many decades later.
Hence the histories of many of these regions which were later colonized has taken huge steps forward. And the histories are written-- and the way that the histories are written has undergone radical change. Yet most of the focus of these works-- I mean the location where the histories are developed-- they are in India, in Southeast Asia, and in America.
Many other parts of the world have been left out, including the Middle East, of course. There's not much work along these lines with regard to the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, the Arab world, the south Mediterranean. There's not much. I mean, there's a little bit of an articles-- a few articles, but there are no books, for example.
Of the way that this region, our region here in the Middle-- I mean here, back where I come from-- in the Middle East may have played a role in the development of the world that we live in today. And this is what I would like to address.
Now of course, why is-- why is the Arab world or is the Islamic world left out? Well, it is considered to be-- it's still considered to be in a state of decline. If we look back, compare the figures who emerged in the medieval Islamic world, where they were very important scientists and very important innovations taking place in optics, and in medicine, and in physics, and in mathematics, I mean, a number of fields. Most of these scholars and intellectuals go back several hundred years. And for example, thinkers like Ibn Khaldun, 15th century; al-Razi, 10th century; Khwarizmi, who invented a number of mathematical and geometrical innovations, ninth century; Ibn Sina, Ibn [INAUDIBLE] medicine. All of them were living pretty early on.
By contrast, the period which I'm talking about, i.e. 1600 to 1800 is not known to have produced notable scientists or great philosophy, nor have the scholars-- not have present-day scholars been able to uncover any major innovations in the domains of science or medicine. Maybe they exist, but in any case, there's not much for us to read about them at the present time. So that's the situation.
My paper argues for something else. What I'm looking at is another sort of knowledge, one that is not perhaps immediately obvious from the surface and does not focus on great men but on anonymous artisans and craftsmen. It is a kind of knowledge, or if you like to prefer to call it, know-how which is nevertheless worthy of our consideration.
Unlike the intellectual achievements of the earlier period, the know-how that I'm referring to is that of craftsmen and artisans, which was based not on scientific research undertaken in a laboratory, not on theoretical grounds, but on empirical knowledge of the craft, on trial and error. It was transmitted among craftsmen through practice rather than through the written word.
The techniques in question were created by persons with a limited education-- I say limited education, we really know nothing about their-- excuse me-- not very much about their education, but it's likely they were illiterate-- created by persons with limited-- not by scientists. And yet one can measure the importance of what they did, not buy by the texts that they wrote, but by the impact on subsequent development. In short, the question that is raised here is this, was there a place for this anonymous group of people-- and I'm talking about people in Egypt, and Syria, and Turkey, I mean parts of the Ottoman Empire-- was there a place for people like that in the emergence of the modern world?
It's a question, which I will try to answer by considering the transfer of know-how from the Levant to Europe-- or more specifically, I can be more specific Egypt, Syria, Turkey to France. Why France? Well, France was, in the period we're talking about, the most important trading partner of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman state had given French merchants a number of important privileges so that they really dominated commerce with Europe, between the Ottoman Empire and Europe.
And I we specifically talk about certain matters related to the production of cloth. And again, there's a reason for this. Cloth that was extremely important as a product of international trade. In fact, this period specifically, there was an enormous expansion of trade.
And I refer you to the work of [INAUDIBLE] from Warwick University who wrote some very important books. Of course, he was talking about India, but at least it does make it clear that textiles became so extremely important in international trade. And of course as we know, textile was at the source of the Industrial Revolution. I mean, it was through textiles that you start to have the machines and the whole set up that occurred in Britain shortly after.
So these transfers of technology were taking place at a time when the world market for cloth was undergoing considerable expansion. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, France are starting to create its own cloth industry. It had to be competing right and left with other competitors. It was trying to produce cloth that was, price-wise, relatively cheap. And therefore, manufacturers were looking for cheap ways to produce things and were looking for new know-how, specifically on bleaching, dyeing of textiles. And this is what they were-- they came and found in countries like Egypt, Turkey-- I mean, the Ottoman Empire. In other words, they were looking for the techniques that were used, invented, created by craftsmen and artisans in the Ottoman Empire.
I think the focus on the subject of the transfer of technology from craftsmen working in the southern Mediterranean to the northern Mediterranean adds to our understanding of the construction of knowledge in the modern period. And I want to say one more thing about France is that France imported a large amount of textiles from the Ottoman Empire. And it was the main distributor of these textiles in Europe and in America.
And for example, there were certain Egyptian textiles which are described in the sources that I use as being plain, and coarse, and not decorated. And these are the textiles that the French were buying in order to send to the Caribbeans so that they could clothe slaves with. So we're really talking about something bulky. We're talking about something large scale. We're not talking about luxury cloth. Our sources allow us to follow in some detail the various techniques that were transferred and the different steps that were followed in the transfer of know-how from the Ottoman Empire to France, technology in bleaching, in dyeing, and in painted cloth.
One of the most important items that French manufacturers were concerned with was red dye-- red, the color red. Red was very expensive in 17th-century Europe. It was a color that was used for royalty, for high church officials.
And with time-- here is what happens with the 17th century. These bright-colored cloth were becoming desirable to broader segments of society. And therefore, the manufacturers in France were eager to find ways of production that were a little bit cheaper. And they were being also forced to do so because the French state under [? Goldberg, ?] for instance, was trying to-- excuse me-- was trying to limit imports.
So-- thanks-- was trying to-- in order to learn the techniques used by the craftsmen in the Ottoman Empire-- thank you very much-- there were various methods of transfer. For example, the French travelers found that in the town of Izmir, there were methods for producing red that are very, very effective. They tried to imitate them. When they did not succeed, they decided that the best way to learn how to do the-- what they called the "Turkey Red," red from Turkey, was to bring the artisans, and settled them in France, and then hopefully these artisans would teach others the techniques that they were familiar with.
And so towards the end of the 17th century, a large number of artisans from Izmir-- some of the more Greeks, some of them are Armenian-- who were allowed to settle in Marseilles. And they opened shops specifically to produce red dye with the hope that with that they would teach other artisans the techniques. So it was not a transfer of techniques as it was a transfer of craftsmen that would teach local craftsmen in Marseilles how to carry out this dyeing technique.
French interest in textile dyes is also evident when, in 1798, Napoleon's army invaded Egypt. The scholars who accompanied this expedition paid multiple visits to textile workshops in order to examine the techniques that craftsmen used to produce colors which, in France, were little known at the time. Again, red is among them, but not the only thing. It's not the only color.
The scholars wrote detailed reports on the way that yellow was produced and on the way that pink was produced. Apparently, these were very rare colors that were very difficult to obtain with the techniques that were available in France at the time. So yellow was sought after.
Pink was-- they were extremely surprised that you could take the same plant with which you produced red, which was called [? cartame ?] or [SPEAKING ARABIC] in Arabic. And depending on how you used it, you could get red, or you could use it in a different way and get pink. And that same plant could turn into yellow as well.
And so reports were written, and they were sent to Paris, to the Académie des sciences. And the Académie des sciences would publish the findings. So this diffusion can be-- you can follow the details of how this was produced from French sources.
From these sources, we find that some of the techniques learned in the modest workshops were eventually-- eventually penetrated French manufacture, some of them. For instance, the art of dyeing a piece of cloth in multiple colors, this was something that surprised the people who came with Napoleon very, very much. How could you dye one piece of cloth with six or eight colors? And so we have reports written about this.
And eventually, some how the reports had some result. They didn't always have a good result because the reports were written by people who were not themselves workers. They are not themselves artisans.
Sometimes they were-- well, the people who came with Napoleon were scientists. One of them was a chemist, very knowledgeable, who had scientific background. And when he described things, he could do it in a more or less scientific way that they understood. Those who read it back in Paris could understand. But oftentimes, descriptions were written that were not-- they were not clear, they were contradictory, as I will tell you in a minute.
So as I was saying, multiple colors, it was used-- eventually, once they learned the technique, dyeing cloth in multiple colors were used in the famous [? Globlen ?] manufacturer. it's a very famous factory for the production of extremely expensive cloth decorated in a very artistic way. In 1819, the director of the [? Globlen ?] manufacturer, the Count du [? Montbéliard ?] made the demonstration in front of his students of the new machines for dyeing cloth in multiple colors.
Another dye that they found was what we call henna. I don't think it has a name in English that I'm aware of. I mean, the word used in Arabic is simply transliterated in French as [SPEAKING FRENCH]. In Egypt, it is used to dye hands red and to dye hair. But apparently at one time it was used as dye for cloth.
So apparently, the henna was used for dyeing. The use of the henna for dyeing was, until 1798, unknown in France. After several visits to a dye workshop in Cairo and detailed reports on the techniques used to obtain the color, it subsequently became used in the silk factory of the city of Lyon-- which is specialized in silk up till now-- in order to get a bright black color.
And the owner of one of the factories continued to import the henna from the East for many, many decades to come. Until-- the last source I saw was dated after mid-19th century. So he learned the techniques, but he still continued-- I mean, the henna's not planted in France. It is very common in our part of the world.
Another product arousing much interest was called sal ammoniac It is also a term not translated-- It's always referred to as sal ammoniac in French sources and in English sources. In Arabic, we call it [SPEAKING ARABIC]. It has a scientific name also, a chemical name. It's called ammonium chloride as I found out.
It's had now multiple uses in cloth production. For instance, it was used in various dyes because you could use it to make red dye look bright, and you could use it to make blue made from indigo also look much brighter. It had other uses, to dry meat, to work on metals and copper, and it was also used in pharmaceutical goods and medical goods.
This sal ammoniac was throughout 17th and 18th century-- I mean, earlier of course. I mean, I'm sure that the long, long tradition before, but my sources go to these dates. It was a product uniquely produced in Egypt.
And Egypt had a monopoly. It was the only country that produced cell ammoniac. There were other regions of the world where it came naturally near volcanoes. You could make sal ammoniac out of the volcano lava. But in Egypt, they are actually producing it. So you could get the quantities that you needed or that you wanted.
So we had a monopoly of sale to various European countries. But throughout the 18th century-- and this is very interesting to see when we talk about craftsmen craftwork being simple and primitive. Throughout the 18th century, Europeans tried to break the monopoly of the sal ammoniac and to produce it in Europe.
In Egypt the production of sal ammoniac took place in very large workshops in a number of towns in the Delta. Of course, the workers of such workshops were extremely poor people. But they were following a craft that they had learned on the spot, presumably they were illiterate. And the techniques that they used were very far from being simple or primitive.
How do we know this? Well, we know this simply from the fact that it was so difficult to imitate. In fact the procedure was a very complex one, and it took a long time for French producers to learn. It took them a century, actually.
From the very beginning of this 18th century, we have a report by a Jesuit priest that was commissioned by the Académie des sciences in Paris. He was commissioned to find out how sal ammoniac was made. Actually, this is a core sort of industrial spying. This Jesuit priest was living in a small village in the Delta. And he was there with one purpose, to convert of the members of the Coptic population.
And then he got this letter from the French consul in Cairo coming from the French Academy, the Academy of Science in Paris asking for a detailed report on how sal ammoniac was made. So he did his best. He went to a workshop. He knew Arabic, so that was a big advantage.
And he described what wrote, what he saw. But of course, he was not a scientist. He was not a craftsman. He was a Jesuit priest. He knew Arabic, and all he wanted to do was to convert a few people. So sal ammoniac was very far from his interest. The report got to France, nobody understood anything. And the experiments ended with failure, should we say.
Shortly after the Académie des sciences sent someone else. This time it was a doctor. He also knew Arabic. And they sent him to the villages where sal ammoniac was made. So he dressed up as a peasant. And in order to get the information he wanted and to make friends with people, he walked barefoot in the village is what we are told.
He was also a doctor. He was a physician. And after having treated a few people in the village from various ailments, they came to trust him, and he was allowed to come and inspect the workshops for the same sal ammoniac.
Find another report, and the same result, the report was forwarded to the consul, and the consul forwarded it to the French Academy. And whatever they tried was not very successful. [INAUDIBLE] with other persons were sent in because of the 18th century to visit the workshops to make reports on the way the sal ammoniac was produced.
By the end of the century-- so we're talking about the coming of Napoleon, 1798-- one of Napoleon's men-- this time we're talking about some dudes very educated-- [? Jomar, ?] he wrote here-- and these are his words-- All the descriptions-- I mean, he went to visit one of the workshops with the same objective. And he also had all the previous reports in front of him, the report that was written by the Jesuit at the beginning of the century, the report that was written by the doctor who was called [? Grainger ?] a couple of decades later. There was a third report written by a Swede called Hazel [? Quist. ?] He had all these in hand.
And that is what he wrote. "All the descriptions that we have about this production of sal ammoniac are incomplete. Some of them are contradictory, and therefore it is very difficult to get a clear idea of the process for its production." In other words, about 100 years later, they still had not learned how to do it. So is this what we call simple, primitive work? It took several decades of experimentation by scientists and chemists working in scientific laboratories before the procedure was finally understood and successfully imitated. It is only at the end of the 18th century that they were starting to produce sal ammoniac in France.
At the end of the 19th century, so 100-- or a bit less, maybe 80 years later-- the Egyptian historian, Ali Mubarak wrote in his book, [SPEAKING ARABIC], in which he describes the different villages and towns in Egypt and the products they do, here is what he says. "By the end of the century, all the sal ammoniac workshops of the Delta were closed. The competition had got its course.
So what do we get out of all of this? First of all, transfer of knowledge and technology from the West to the East are well-known, the railways, the steamship, the printing press, and many more have become a common sight in the various regions of the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. But less well known are the transfers that took place in the other direction, and the impact that they had on manufacturers of the 18th and 19th century-- mainly in France because that's what I was working on-- and ultimately on the French Industrial Revolution. And so it's important to take these into consideration in order to have a counterbalance to the excessive weight of Eurocentric approaches.
The material I've presented also suggest we have to broaden our perspectives on great man history in order to include other sectors of society that may have contributed to the making of the Modern World, i.e. the anonymous workers who, through their daily work their own materials, through trial and error, improved their techniques and adapted them to new needs.
In short, a consideration of the transfers and the movement of people, ideas, and goods during this crucial moment suggest a way to write a world history between 600 and 1800-- which is also a history from below-- and allows space for regions other than Europe and for social groups other than the great scientists, to whom, of course, we are also very grateful. Thank you.
AZIZ RANA: Hello. So first I'd like to just thank the organizers for inviting me to participate, Eric for that very lovely introduction, and Professor Hanna for a really fascinating project, an exposition of the project. The material that I saw and the presentation that you heard I think does a wonderful job of locating the Middle East within the global history of capitalism, and in particular, in highlighting the ways in which knowledge transfers from the South to the North really shaped the age of industrialization and the rise of the modern state in a way that I think I certainly previously had not fully appreciated. And that she does this in an incredibly grounded manner by a focus on actors that are almost always excluded from this narrative, so the crafts people and artisans who shape the terms of these knowledge exchanges, but for various reasons are written out of the traditional histories that are told.
And for me, let's say, to bring home how striking the account is, the image that I had in mind was the image of the classic French working-class Republican of the 19th century. So when we think of the French-- the French Republican worker, this is somebody that is sans-culottes, so not wearing the clothes of the feudal aristocracy, dressed in an attire that's distinctive because it's like the first time you have pants and shirts in vibrant colors that mark the Republican projects, so in red, and white, and blues.
And for the first time I was like, wait a second, the implications of this story is that the very capacity for us to think, have that image of what French Republicanism means, so distinctively modern and European, is through a set of skills that emerged in the Levant, in Syria-- not just in the Levant, obviously, but throughout parts of the Middle East. And it's the very capacity to take these dyes and colors and then create means for mass production in France that are the terms for what we think of as distinctively French. So those are remarkable aha moment for me in going over the story. And then certainly the other big picture that connects out of this is the way in which this argument then, once again, really highlights the failure of the classic categories of oriented oxidant to make sense of the Mediterranean world, which is really a world of shared exchange and flow that can't be separated in any kind of coherent way into these two distinct gulfs and groups.
So what I think I'm going to do for my own time is just essentially to raise three questions that are interconnected questions that emerged from the project. And they're about one, the normative valence that we should give to the story that Professor Hanna tells. And then let's say the other two questions are connected to the analytical concepts and tools that we generally have for thinking about this period in global history, especially what to make of how this story connects, to how we generally think of capitalism, big C capitalism, colonialism, big C colonialism.
So I'll start with the normative question. And really, it's a question that connects to this very evocative sentence in the material that I saw and that Professor Hanna read which is, by the end of the 19th century, all the shops in the Delta had closed. So what should we make of that? That the story is that you have these incredible grounded knowledge practices that are the product of centuries of experimentation, learning, that are necessary for the rise of a mass industrial textile industry, mass industrial textile base, in France, and that you have French actors both in business and in the state that want to be able to access these knowledge productions in order to be able to expand their own manufacturing practices. And they eventually succeed. And the cost of that success is the disappearance of an economically vibrant set of alternatives.
And really what this sounded like to me is what James Scott-- so the American political scientist who's done a great deal of work on the rise of the modern state-- refers to as the divide between matisse and techne. So matisse is the set of grounded practices that local communities have-- and oftentimes artisans and crafts people-- that is a product of experimentation, shared background knowledge, deep knowledge, that's built on rule of thumb. And techne, by contrast, the kind of top-down-- seeing like a state, to use Scott's term-- form of knowledge that's built on establishing logical precision that creates clear rules that can be replicated on a mass scale.
And this is a story potentially. And so this would be the kind of question of the move from matisse to techne. And it's a move that, at a deep level, is then about what we can think of, in 21st century terms, as the expropriation of intellectual property. So you have local communities that have extensive skills. And in order to be able to transform those skills into something that can be reproduced on a mass scale, you have to create clear replicable scientific formulae that are based on certifiable rules. And then once you have those established, then you no longer need the Matisse, and you've essentially claimed the intellectual property for massive profits, both for the state and for business.
Now, the contemporary 21st century example of this, which is to this day-- or not pretty much to this day-- there's currently a huge issue in parts of Asia and Africa is a story about agribusiness and pharmaceuticals. So the agrobusiness story is that you have local agricultural communities in places like India that over centuries have developed specific kinds of mechanisms for producing the types of seeds that withstand natural conditions, that are a product of the environment, and yet can control the environment. And on the pharmaceutical side, you have communities here in parts of Africa that have developed a set of common knowledge and common wisdom about how to use specific types of plants and herbs to address various kinds of medical ailments.
And what we've seen through Monsanto is like the obvious spector that stands on the agrobusiness side, but also through various pharmaceutical companies is the effort to connect to local farmers and local communities on the ground, extract whatever knowledge that actually ends up producing the seed or produces the relationship to the plant, and then transform that into a product that can be sold on a mass scale without providing, essentially, any of the financial rights or property rights to those communities in the first place in a way that amounts to a massive economic expropriation.
So if we think of the present as subject to this tension between matisse and techne that's generated various forms of extractive intellectual property practices, is this really the story of it's-- forget about pre-history, but it's long history in terms of the relationship precisely between European-- or we can more broadly. think of American-European industrialization and the local acknowledges that existed in parts of the global South.
So there's a big question that stands out there about what normatively to take because on the one hand, there's something remarkable and stirring about the idea that it's artisans in Turkey, Syria, in parts of Egypt that are the condition for the very images that we have of what it means to be definitively French. But on the other hand, the condition is also marked by their elimination from that story. So that's the first question.
And the second is then really an exploration about what-- if this is a story of the expropriation of intellectual property, how to think of that in terms of the long global history of capitalism that marks this era-- so 1600 to 1800, 1900 and beyond-- that in a way what's happening to those artisans in the Delta is really not that different than what's happening to artisans in other parts of France. In other words, the scholars of early capitalism talk about the first enclosure-- just really quickly because this is probably just common to the folks in the room. So the first enclosure has to do with the fact that you had common grazing lands in large parts of Europe in the early modern period. These common grazing lands provide the economic basis for the survival of pastoralists and small-scale farmers.
And the story, the initial story of the emergence of the state is its connection to feudal landholders that essentially want to be able to claim these common grazing lands and create large-scale plantations. So that's the first enclosure, which is the claiming of land from common space. And it goes hand-in-hand with the criminalization of longstanding pastoralists practices and a massive coercive state effort that gets underway against those local farmers and hunters.
But then there's a second enclosure that starts taking place more or less around the same time that Professor Hanna's discussing, which is really-- this is the 18th and early 19th century story. And that's that you have small-scale artisans that have their own shops, that control their own means of production, that generate their own craft products, including textiles through what in England was called "the putting out" system that had various kinds of-- various kinds of equivalents across Europe. And that as part of the move toward mass industrialization, there was a sustained effort essentially to destroy the putting out system and to break up these single shops and to transform the artisans into what end up being, through the modern industrial worker, through a hierarchically-organized firm, in which workers no longer control the means of production. So that's the kind of familiar story. That's the story of the second enclosure.
And in many ways, this narrative sounds a lot like that story the second enclosure that marks the experience not just of Middle Eastern artisans, but of quote unquote "properly French" artisans themselves. And if that's the case, then there's this question that really kind of stands above the conversation, which is what's distinctively South about the knowledge transfers here? So if this is a story that's about South to North knowledge transfers, in many ways it looks very equivalent to the kind of North to North knowledge transfers in terms of the types of treatment that we're seeing meted out toward French workers themselves.
And the reason why this is relevant is because the project is connected to a body of scholarship that I find really compelling about the centrality of colonialism, and colonial production proper, and the genesis of modern European capitalism, which is the work that Professor Hanna reference that goes all the way back to Eric William's wonderful classic book from the '40s Capitalism Is Slavery. But in a way if we're seeing similar practices in the South in terms of the relationship with the global South or an explicitly colonial settings to the kinds of practices that are emerging in the European metropole, then in a sense what's distinctive about this as either South to North or more broadly-- let's say taking it outside of the Ottoman context-- colonial capitalism disappears. It seems to be a story just generally about capitalist production that doesn't necessarily recognize analytical differences in terms of how we ordinarily think of the types of extractive practices that occurred in colonized settings, as opposed to the types of extractive practices that occurred in the European center.
And so, this basically raises a question, which is, what is distinctive about colonialism? Is there something distinctive about colonialism? Or is this just a story of capitalism and the ways in which capitalism flattens different kinds of social experiences regardless of the site?
Now, we might actually want to claim that and say, yes. And that's precisely the ways in which the Orient oxidant narrative undermines our ability to actually perceive continuities. But there also might be really important reasons why we want to be able to say, hey, there is actually something distinctive about the colonial encounter or the particular treatment that communities in the global South face and continue to face that mark histories that should be understood as separate and distinctive. And there's a kind of ambiguity here that actually begs the question and requires us to think really seriously about the extent to which we're not just talking about a general story of the second enclosure.
And then that leads to the third question that I have, which is a continuation of the second. And that's basically just a asking Professor Hanna to talk a little bit more about where the state fits in this story. So the state is there in the background.
And you might have noticed it in a couple of different locations. So you have the French Academy of Arts and Sciences, or Academy of Sciences that's really interested in having access to these dyes and these various kinds of techniques. Well, that's a state institution. That's a product of the French monarchy's desire to be able to build scientifically-grounded production. You have a note about the French Consul in Egypt during that Polyonic period that's also simply very interested in these forms of production. So there's clear state commitment to developing and mass producing the types of practices that Professor Hanna's describing.
And so then there's this issue about well, what's the state doing, and how should we see it? Now, there's a common story in comparative political science that's associated with Charles Tilly about the rise of the modern state. That very classic story is the modern state in many ways, as understood in Europe in the 17th and 18th century, is a war-making state. And it's a state that's about, well, how do you expand the treasury of the monarch in order to be able to engage in expansive war-making practices?
And the way that you expand the treasury is two-fold, by having control, in mercantilist terms, over growing economies and growing sites of industrialisation, like an expanding mass-produced textile industry. And it also has to do with expanding the tax base because if the way that you get money is by taking money from the subjects of the crown, well, the money that you're going to have is going to be dependent on how wealthy those subjects are. And that actually requires, again, extensive investment in domestic production in ways that ensure that you have a larger tax base. That's a story of why the state cares about this. And it's a story about how the state form is actually deeply implicated in the kinds of policies that produce a mass industrial economy, and in this case, a mass textile industry.
I'll note something, which is that idea of what have-- that slice of how we should think of the modern state is the same basically in France as it is in the Ottoman Empire. I mean, the part of the reasons why you have these particular exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and France is because of a similar set of concerns and commitments. And so you're telling a similar story in many ways about convergence on a modern-- a model of modern statecraft that doesn't look that different across the Mediterranean.
And the reason why I raise this as a question is because, certainly one of the things that's been a sight of controversy and public discussion is work like that by [INAUDIBLE] and the impossible state that really emphasizes the distinctiveness of, in a way, the Orient versus the Oxidant in order to tell a story of a multiplicity of modern state models that might have been available 300 years ago, 200 years ago, and that sees the Ottoman experiment, in particular, as an experiment marked by pluralism and a diversity of both economic and political forms that was a path not taken. But one could read this story as perhaps a critical rejoinder, which is, are there really alternative paths if we have a single vision of what modern statecraft looks like, that's tied to the development of extractive assets as a way of building a tax base to be able to promote mercantile spheres of power and ultimately, to engage in war-making? Now, that's a-- that still a kind of dark and pessimistic story of the modern state that might not be compatible with various alternative value systems and ways of being.
Certainly to return to James Scott as a final thought, Scott's takeaway would be precisely this is why we should be suspicious of the modern state project. And he ends up in a kind of a particular type of anarchist space. I don't know if we necessarily have to go down that path, but there is this question of to what extent can efforts to revive, but alter, the normative valences for the Orient survive this kind of analysis?
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Great. Thank you so much.
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Nelly Hanna, Eric Tagliacozzo and Aziz Rana participated in a panel discussion during the conference, "The Middle East, the Academy, and the Production of Knowledge" on Nov. 12, 2017. The event was organized by the Middle East Working Group (MEWG) of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
Since Edward Said's seminal study Orientalism almost forty years ago, scholars have been aware that the Middle East is not just a site for study, but one invested with multiple meanings on the politics and pitfalls of how to study a place, generally. Situated at a crossroads of geographies, religions, and histories, the Middle East is contested terrain in every sense, and on a daily basis.
This conference brought together a group of scholars from within and outside the United States, who looked at this trope across a range of disciplines. Through this gathering of expertise and perspectives, they interrogated some of the ways that knowledge about the Middle East is produced, and shed critical light on that knowledge. What does the Middle East mean in the modern academy? Who produces this knowledge, and toward what ends? Participants looked at these formulations and others over the course of a stimulating - and provocative- day of collective discourse.