Have you ever wondered about the cup of coffee you are holding in your hands? Where does the coffee come from? Who grows it? Who processes it? What part does coffee play in their lives? How does it connect their lives to yours? Is your consumption of coffee purely a matter of individual taste? What does it mean for the relationship between you and those in the places through which coffee travels on its way to the coffee shop?
This course considers such questions about a range of common commodities that are traded globally such as coffee, tea, and bananas. It aims to familiarize students with the economic, social, and political mechanisms that regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of such commodities. By considering these commodities as embedded in the social and political lives of producers, traders, consumers, and other actors, you will be able to identify global forces and processes behind the common goods that you or people around you consume every day.
The course is suited to undergraduate students who are interested in learning about issues of globalization via ethnographic studies that take familiar consumer goods as the central objects of investigation. If you feel like English might be a challenge: this is also an opportunity to learn how to work with understanding and producing academic texts in English.
The course is structured around 12 global commodities, to each of which an ethnographic monograph is devoted. A copy of each core book on the reading list is available on reserve in the library, and you are responsible for acquiring access to the books. It is highly important for students to attend all sessions in order to have a good grasp of the main issues that cut across the different commodities considered in the course.