Framing the Circulation of People and Goods between Asia and the Americas in the Long 19th Century

Most discussions about the Americas and Asia focus on trans-Pacific trade and migration, overlooking other circuits of movement and connection. We seek, instead, to bring scholars of the Americas into conversation with scholars of South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia to consider global diasporas from each region in the context of labor migration, capitalism, and the emergence of both territorial empires and settler colonial nation-states in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Critical to our contemporary political economy, the traffic in goods and people between Asia and the Americas has been consequential since the establishment of regular global trade in the early modern era. Linking the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans together, this movement also reconfigured place, as capitalism’s shifting priorities redefined the scope, hierarchy, and density of interconnections on land. Maritime traffic not only linked ports-of-call, it hastened movement into interior hinterlands, configuring them as territory to contest, control, and conquer. Some territories became extractive zones, while others became settler colonies where immigrants lived and worked (often in conflict with indigenous populations) and developed new social and cultural attachments. Taken together, these circuits of interactions produced the pre-conditions for the interrelated political economic concepts that defined global relations in the 20th century: the nation-state, territorial sovereignty, and citizenship.

Traffic, Territory, Citizenship is a one-day symposium on new approaches to the circulation and interchange of people and goods between Asia and the Americas during the long nineteenth century. Sponsored by the Citizenship, Rights, and Cultural Belonging Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence at Binghamton University (BU), the symposium will be held April 16, 2016, at BU’s Downtown Center, Rm. 220B.

The symposium will feature two keynote sessions by Madhavi Kale (Bryn Mawr College), a historian of Indian indentured labor migration and Indian domesticity, and Robert Hellyer (Wake Forest University), a historian of international trade in Japan and the global tea trade. Ana Maria Candela (Sociology, BU), K. Ian Shin (History, Columbia), Jean Quataert (History, BU), Dael Norwood (History, BU), and John Cheng (Asian and Asian American Studies, BU) will also participate.

Open to the public, the symposium will combine sessions organized around questions drawn from participants’ research with presentations on primary sources. In addition to discussion and feedback on their research, participants will also collectively produce a digitally-annotated bibliography of relevant scholarship and a digital archive of primary sources – both to be published online as an integrated exhibit to spur future research and support teaching on the workshop’s themes.

For information, e-mail



John Cheng, Asian and Asian American Studies, Binghamton University
Dael Norwood, History, Binghamton University

Keynote Speakers
Madhavi Kale, Bryn Mawr
Robert Hellyer, Wake Forest University

Ana Maria Candela, Sociology & LACAS, Binghamton University
“From Compradors to Hacendados: Chinese Merchants as Asian Settler Colonists in Peru, 1880s-1920s”

Jean Quataert, History & Women’s Studies, Binghamton University
"Battlefield Nursing in the Pacific during an Era of Europe's "Small Wars," 1899-1907: A Research Note"

K. Ian Shin, History, Columbia University
“ ‘Art and Rascality are truly bed-fellows!’: Chinese Art Dealers as Commercial and Cultural Brokers, 1900-1920”


Saturday, April 16, 2016


Session 1: South Asian Circuits, Movements of People

Coffee Break

Session 2: East Asian Circuits, Movements of Goods

Lunch (sponsored by BU)

Session 3: Interventions and Intersections of Goods and People

Coffee Break

Session 4: Sources and Synthesis

Wrap up remarks