Accepted paper:

Gifted Commodities: Diplomatic Ivories from Sri Lanka


Zoltán Biedermann (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the blurry intersection between the worlds of gifts and of commodities by focusing on objects from Sri Lanka in the Portuguese Empire.

Paper long abstract:

"Gifts" have been theorised as objects contrasting in a variety of ways with "commodities". Their artistic and material value may be beyond anything that is available on the market, their symbolic value escapes quantification per definitionem, they cannot be transactioned freely, etc. Such generalisations do, however, carry risks of simplification and even tautology. The paper will explore some of the problems thus posed by examining a set of Sri Lankan ivories brought to Europe by the Portuguese.

panel P12
Global gifts: material culture and diplomatic exchange in the Early Modern world