ABSTRACT

This co-authored article offers reflections on the pedagogical potential of focusing on commodity chains as an approach to teaching culture. By way of example, it foregrounds gold, drawing on the two authors’ experiences teaching material related to this valuable mineral in very distinct fields: European art history (in courses on the ancient and medieval eras) and Latin American literature and culture (in courses about the Amazon taught in Spanish and Portuguese). The authors also discuss their collaborative work in creating an Open Educational Resources (OER) module on gold, and the possibility of a co-taught course. Gold is a particularly interesting commodity given the many myths that surround it, its history as a form of currency and standard of value, and the aesthetic qualities attributed to it. More generally, however, focusing on specific commodities from the point of extraction to their use in an array of products encourages students to think about the materiality of culture and its implication in an array of political, economic, and ethical issues. It also offers a way of charting connections and differences across long arcs of time, across geographical space and cultural differences, and across different academic disciplines.

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