Theme-centered Semester 2018

Cotton is ever-present in today’s world, not only as a sewing material and fabric used in clothing but also in bank notes and food stuffs. But what do we really know about how cotton is produced, the conditions under which it is harvested and processed, and how it historically linked together various parts of the world and continues to do so today? The transdisciplinary theme-centered semester 2018 used the example of cotton to shed light on the processes of global capitalism; explored links between colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade; and took a closer look at current global production and retail / trade chains, working conditions and questions  of sustainability and fair trade. The semester topic was an opportunity to consider how local and global history, colonial and contemporary social, political and economic systems, economic myths and studies of violence are all intermeshed. It also looked at the connection between conscientious living and memorial culture. A diverse programme of public lectures, conferences, workshops, seminars, student projects and excursions on all these topics was organized in the Summer Semester of 2018 in partnership with various universities and municipal actors. International guests such as Sven Beckert (Harvard/USA), Koray Çalışkan (Boğaziçi/Istanbul), Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS/London), Stephan Small (UC Berkeley), and Adam Sneyd (Guelph/Canada) were invited to take part. The complete programme can be found here. The theme-centered semester was part of a university-wide project entitled ‘Global Cotton. One University – One Book – One City“ with which the University of Bremen (on the initiative of the Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research) applied for and won the competitionentitled: ‘One Uni – One Book’ run by the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany, the ZEIT Foundation and the Klaus Tschira Endowment. The book ‘The Empire of Cotton’ by Sven Beckert was the subject of numerous reading activities held from May to November 2018 in a transdisciplinary, department-wide optic, and open to people of all backgrounds.