UCL Institute of the Americas


Global Connections, Local Consumption, and Foreign Commodities in 19th Century Colombia

01 November 2022, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

IHR Latin American History Seminar

This event is free.

Event Information

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Institute of Historical Research IHR

This talk examines how Colombian peasants, artisans, formerly enslaved people, market women, and small landholders became the largest consumers of foreign commodities between the mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth century (1850–1910). It will explore how, far from being indigenous, the material culture of broad sections of the country’s population was inextricably intertwined with global trends by the end of the nineteenth century. It shows that the appropriation of imported commodities by Colombian popular sectors was in great part due to foreign manufacturers’ willingness to alter or redesign their products to satisfy their demands. Thus, by following the preferences of the popular sectors for English textiles, American machetes, and French patent medicines, among many other foreign commodities, Otero-Cleves demonstrates how, in their capacity as free citizens, Colombian consumers became active agents in the construction of the nation’s marketplace as well as dynamic participants in the global circulation of modern commodities. By methodologically shifting from the periphery to the centre, the talk hopes to offer an original perspective on global interconnectivity in the nineteenth century, where the taste of the popular sectors of apparently isolated countries, such as Colombia, played a key part. 

About the Speaker

Dr Ana María Otero-Cleves

Associate Professor at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia).

Dr Otero-Cleves specialises in the history of nineteenth-century Colombia and Latin America, with a particular interest in the history of consumption and material culture, legal culture, and public history. Her publications include, “Foreign Machetes and Cheap Cotton Cloth: Popular Consumers and Imported Commodities in Nineteenth-Century Colombia.” Hispanic American Historical Review 97, n. ° 3 (2017): 423-256, awarded the prize for Best Article - Nineteenth Century Section by the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). Otero-Cleves is finishing her book Cherished Consumers: Global Connections, Local Consumption, and Foreign Commodities in Nineteenth-Century Colombia, winner of the Toynbee First Book Manuscript Workshop Competition(Opens in new window) (2022).

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