Externality and Incorporation in the World-System: Abyssinia - Anomaly or Palimpsest?


  • Jon D. Carlson UC Merced




This article examines the concept of the ?external arena? and the role of the ?information network? in the expansion of the world-system and incorporation of new regions. To address systemic incorporation, I reference research on nested networks of interaction, and echo criticisms that the impact of myth and misinformation has been underappreciated as an element of incorporation. Significant alteration occurs well-prior to the point at which most world-systems literature considers a region incorporated. I offer the concept of ?protoglobalization? as a means of conceptualizing this early, overlooked social, economic, and political change. Abyssinia is of interest because it offers a rare case of cross-systemic incorporation. The region was historically part of the Red Sea trade complex, had linkages throughout the interior of Africa, and existed on the periphery of the Indian Ocean world-system. So while initially outside the realm of European contact, this case offers an example of successful resistance to incorporation and how that process can be understood. Additionally, it offers a case study of crosssystemic incorporation, which has been lacking in the literature. As such, it also contributes to the concept of a ?contested periphery?. The case reaffirms the significant impact external regions can have on the functioning of ?internal? system actors; the mere myth of Prester John spurred significant effort by European powers to locate his legendary Christian Kingdom. Finally, the article uses the methodological innovation of historical maps to trace the border of the ?information network?, which allows for a refinement of our understanding of the complex process of incorporation and an improved model of the relationship between networks of interaction, frontiers, contestation, and incorporation.




How to Cite

Carlson, J. D. (2011). Externality and Incorporation in the World-System: Abyssinia - Anomaly or Palimpsest?. Journal of World-Systems Research, 17(1), 165–198. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2011.431



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