Every doctoral student seems to be fueled by caffeine, but I fear I may have taken it a step too far... Take a stroll to the café around the corner from our department and you’ll find—in addition to any number of anthropology students—coffee for sale from Costa Rica, Kenya, Rwanda, Brazil, and more. Head to the nearest café in Brazil, however, and the situation looks a little different: the only beans you’ll be able to buy are Brazilian. Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer since the 1800s, has recently surpassed the United States as the largest consumer of coffee, yet it is unique when compared to other coffee consuming countries in that this is a national product, largely removed from the lengthy international commodity chains typically held to characterise the coffee trade.
For my DPhil research, I spent a year based in São Paulo looking at how luxury consumers and high-end coffee aficionados navigate the material constraints created by protectionist trade policies which ban the importation of foreign coffees while encouraging the exportation of the highest quality Brazilian coffees. Anxieties around aspiration, mobility, and personal and national futures are played out over and through a cup of coffee, and tensions have been heightened by the ongoing effects of the economic recession and the rise of rightwing populism. Anyone who has spent time in Brazil will know that the cafezinho (little coffee) is a central part of hospitality and sociality; as I currently write up this work I hope to show that the cafezinho is not so little after all, and has implications far deeper than just the bottom on the cup.
When I’m not writing things about coffee, you can find me…making coffee! Since returning from fieldwork I have been active with the anthropology society, and you can find me and the OUAS team hosting the department’s weekly coffee mornings. I’ve occasionally been known to brew some curious coffees there, so please do join us Wednesdays (11am-noon) during term.
The photo shows Sabine judging at the Braziliian Barista Championships in Rio de Janeiro, one of the more delicious parts of fieldwork!