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Workshop "Treaty Ports in East Asia, 1850-1910"

Jun 17, 2016

The workshop "Treaty Ports in East Asia, 1850-1910" was organized by the Chair of Cultural Economic History at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies and headed by Prof. Harald Fuess. It took place at the Karl-Jaspers-Center from June 17-18 and focused on treaty ports in East Asia in a time when they were a unique phenomenon of the modern imperialist world system.

At that time, relatively isolated economic and political spheres were forced to accommodate with global systems of trade, finance, and military and political power. These new ports of the mid-nineteenth century were not only hubs of international commerce but also served as transcultural spaces of interaction and segregation, very often creating hybridized societies, which in turn exerted powerful influences on their local hinterlands, usually extending into the historic Asian capitals.

The largest of the historical treaty ports, most notably Shanghai, have accumulated huge bodies of research on their urban, cultural, social, political and economic histories. This research, however, tends to view specific treaty port cities in isolation. There is much less work underway on the treaty port system as a whole. In particular, there is only limited research connecting the ports of China, Japan and the Korean peninsula. Can one even talk of a treaty port “system”? What are its common elements, and how did they affect the varying social, cultural and economic histories of China, Korea and Japan? What were the transformative impacts of the treaty ports on the political, cultural, economic and social spheres of East Asia and on the rest of the world? Why did these effects vary so widely between one region and another? The core exercise of this workshop was to move from the historical specificities of place and time to develop broader generalizations and concepts, and to lay out a research agenda for future collaboration.

The workshop took place at Karl Jaspers Centre in room 212 from 9 am to 6m on June 17 and from 9 pm to 1 pm on June 18. Four panels on these two days targeted the topics “Approaches to Treaty Port Studies”, “Media Representations”, “Centre and Periphery” and “Regional and Global Connections”. The closing discussion on Saturday was be chaired by Prof. Harald Fuess.

Prof. Harald Fuess holds the Chair of Cultural Economic History at the Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies. He is also Speaker of the Graduate Programs in Transcultural Studies and Deputy Speaker of the Cluster’s Research Area A "Governance and Administration".


Picutre credit:
"Foreign business district in Yokohama" by Utagawa Hiroshige
Original Images obtained from the Library of Congress
Image edited by Christina Pietsch


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  • "Foreign business district in Yokohama" (credit below)