Visiting fellow Lisa Hellman will give a talk at the seminar of the Amsterdam Centre for Urban History on 28 June from 15:00 to 17:00 pm
“This house is not a home: European everyday life in 18th-century canton and Macao”
This talk will focus on European everyday life in Canton and Macao during the long eighteenth century. Canton was a city of about one million people, and also one of the world’s major trade hubs. In this dense urban environment, however, all foreign traders were crammed together, working, living and loving in a very small area. It was a global village, but also a golden cage. How these foreigners could live, communicate, move around – even whom they could interaction with – were all things strictly regulated by the Chinese authorities.
Using the Swedish East India Company, a minor European actor in an expanding Asian empire, as a point of entry highlights the multiplicity of actors taking part in local negotiations of power, as well as asymmetric power relations in which European did not hold the upper hand. Thereby, these European attempts at making a home in China contributes to a global turn in everyday history, but also to an everyday turn in global history.
I conceptualise the foreigners’ attempt to use social practices in their daily life as an endeavour to create a domestic environment, much as they would elsewhere, home as well as abroad. However, as everyday of these practices taken for granted in Europe, or in European colonies, were changed or made inaccessible to the foreigners by the Chinese authorities, this domesticity was conditional. With a focus on this construction of self and home, I show the importance of ethnic, class and gender relations, especially the construction of masculinity.
In this talk, I will briefly map life in the multicultural foreign quarters, including how the formation of social groups, how space was used and constructed and the role and use of material practices. Methodologically, I combine material of different origin and type, such as correspondence, travel writings, journals and court protocols written by European, North American and Chinese men and women; this multilingual source material mirrors the multi-ethnic composition of the foreign quarters. As such, I hope to show how it might be fruitful to integrate historical studies on early modern urban life, everyday life, globalisation and port cities