Christine Folch

The Social Life of Stimulants

Philippe Sylvestre Dufour "Coffee, Tea, Chocolate" (17th century)

Philippe Sylvestre Dufour “Coffee, Tea, Chocolate” (17th century)

Fall 2019

Register here.

Be honest. The first time you tried coffee, did you like it? Why do you drink it now? How did bitter drinks come to be so popular? And what can we learn about society from the bitter things we consume?

This course looks at legal stimulants and other “drug foods” (e.g., coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, tobacco, yerba mate) in a time-frame bounded by the European colonial project in the Americas to the present in order to explore both personal affect, consumption, and identity construction as well as the development of systems of production and economic markets. Although coffee, tea, and chocolate are now part of the “normal” diet in Europe and North America and have even taken on iconic qualities (e.g., the “tea party” movement, Belgian chocolate), these were introduced as a result of European expansion in the late 15th century. Their transformation from luxury items to common household goods occurred only gradually—concomitant with the development of a capitalist world economy and industrialization.

In this course, we take a range of approaches, from commodity chains to cultural histories, spatial mappings to ritual analyses, to unlock what these products reveal about the global financial system and how individuals extract meaning from rituals. This class incorporates anthropology, history, economics, as well as analyses of popular culture, advertising, art, and expects students to wield tools from these disciplines as they analyze their own consumption of these items. Exercises throughout the semester (e.g. in-class chocolate tastings, spatial mappings of caffeine-vending establishments, fieldsite visits to the Duke Campus Farm) will prepare you for the final project, a research paper that asks you to select a product and analyze the history of its commodification, the current issues around its production, the way it is assigned meaning by society.

#MedicalAnthropology #EconomicHistory #Taste&Identity #TheBuzzYouChoose

Some of our tasty readings:

Martha Few. Chocolate, Sex, and Disorderly Women in Late-Seventeenth- and Early-Eighteenth-Century Guatemala. Ethnohistory.

Sidney Mintz. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.

Wolfgang Schivelbusch. Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants.

Susan J. Terrio. Crafting Grand Cru Chocolates in Contemporary France. American Anthropologist.


One comment on “The Social Life of Stimulants

  1. Pingback: Foraging Adventure: Brewing Yaupon at Duke | Christine Folch

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2019 by in Course, Food Studies and tagged , , , , , .
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