Making The Market: Specialty Coffee, Generational Pitches, And Papua New Guinea
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Wenner-Gren Foundation
Presented by the Anthropology Section
Today the commodity circuit for specialty coffee seems to be made up of socially conscious consumers, well-meaning and politically engaged roasters and small companies, and poor yet ecologically noble producers who want to take part in the flows of global capital, while at the same time living in close harmony with the natural world. This paper examines how these actors are produced by changes in the global economy that are sometimes referred to as neoliberalism. It also shows how images of these actors are produced and what the material effects of those images are. It begins with a description of how generations are understood and made by marketers. Next it shows how coffee production in Papua New Guinea, especially Fair Trade and Organic coffee production, is turned into marketing narratives meant to appeal to particular consumers. Finally, it assesses the success of the generational-based marketing of Papua New Guinea-origin, Fair Trade, and Organic coffees, three specialty coffee types that are marketed heavily to the “Millennial generation,” people born between 1983 and 2000.
A reception will precede the meeting at 6:00 pm
Barnard College and Columbia University
Paige West is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University. In her recent work in Papua New Guinea, she analyzes the global circulation of coffee beans as valuable meaning-filled agricultural commodities and social vessels for particular symbolic representations of nature and culture and also examines notions of ethnical consumption through fair trade and organic certification. Since 1996, drawing on the theories, methods, and insights of both cultural anthropology and political ecology, she has conducted fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Germany, England, and the United States. In 2002 she received the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology and Environment Junior Scholar award for her work. She is a cultural and environmental anthropologist with interests in the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the critical analysis of the creation of commodities and practices of consumption.
Baruch College, CUNY
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