The Invention of Globality in XVIC Europe

    Project Details


    How did we become globe-centred in our Western modern political imaginary?

    This area of research focuses on understanding the historical epistemologies underlying Western modern conceptions of globality that can be traced to the the late XV and early XVI C. It explores the hypothesis that the emergence of a western conception of globality is tightly linked with conceptions of novelty, space, and power emerging out of the process of ‘discovery’ and ‘conquest’ of America and the first European circumnavigations of the globe.

    The area of research aims to interrogate the conditions of possibility and operability of these ideas in order to demystify the commonplace of globality in contemporary thought. Methodologically, it conducts a historical epistemological analysis of narratives of discovery, sailing itineraries, and descriptions of rarities and novel phenomena, emphasising alternative forms of knowledge, bodily, haptic, and material, contained in journals, manuals, cartography, and sailing practices of the time.

    To do so, the initiative investigates four intellectual transformation spaces. First, the shift in the understanding of ideas of novelty and innovation which break away from classical Horacian and Ciceronian conceptions of discovery. Second, the idea and conception of globe that derives from Magellan/Elcano’s circumnavigation and the Treaty of Zaragoza of 1529 around which the so-called second nomos of the earth has been conceived. Third, the establishment of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific trade circuits –Carrera de Indias and Galeon de Manila-, and the creation of the first modern global financial circuit between Seville and Beijing, via Mexico, through silver exchange. And fourth, the emergence of the idea of globality as a connectivity effect that transformed predominantly landed understandings of space based on geopolitical, biopolitical, and economic transformations that exceeded cosmographical knowledge of the time.

    In doing so, the initiative hopes to demonstrate the humble origins of the lofty ideas of globality that have supported the (modern) governmentality of our time and its potential evitability .

    Layman's description

    Globality is taken as an inevitable reality in contemporary political, economic, social, environmental, and cultural discourses. The very idea of the globe, however, is not a simple one and has required a plethora of ideas, beliefs, practices, and contexts for it to emerge in the way we know it today. The problem begs the question of, how did we become globe-centred in the ways in which we understand order, power, and governance in our Western political experience?

    This area of research focuses on the late XVI to mid XVIC as the period in which the epistemological conditions for the emergence of a Western idea of the globe took place. It is centered around the Columbian trips of 'discovery' and 'conquest' of America, the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation of the globe of 1519, and the emergence and institutionalisation of the Spanish Empire. Empirically, it investigates ideas and practices current at the time as evidenced in texts produced by laypeople such as merchants, sailors, conquerors, insurers and adventurers.

    By identifying and interrogating the epistemological conditions that gave rise to the modern understanding of globe, the initiative hopes to demystify the apparent inevitability of the idea and indicate how many of the assumptions made at the time have had subsequent consequences in our systems of governance.
    Effective start/end date01/07/2018 → …


    • globe
    • globality
    • early modern
    • historical international relations
    • historical epistemology