EDITORS' INTRODUCTION, THE "COKE COMPLEX" ISSUE, 2007
This essay was published as the editor's introduction to a cluster of essays on the "Coke Complex," put together following an endorsement by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Cultural Anthropology of boycott actions against The Coca-Cola Company.
Kim Fortun & Mike Fortun, Editors, Cultural Anthropology,
Associate Professors, Science and Technology Studies,
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
*** NEW *** See Robert Foster's Anthropology News article on the Coke Complex Issue, "Show and Tell: Teaching Critical Fetishism with a Bottle of Coke"
In spring 2006, the American Anthropological Association and a number of its sections, including the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) and the American Ethnological Society, endorsed boycott actions against The Coca-Cola Company (see http://www.aaanet.org/pdf/coke_resolution.PDF). The endorsement was based on a growing anthropological record of problems associated with The Coca-Cola Company. As editors of SCA’s journal, we then issued a call for papers that addressed various aspects of what we had come to think of as “the Coke Complex” – the multiplicity of examples, practices, organizational forms and political economic dynamics that enable and index the Coca-Cola Company and the so-called “New Economy” in which Coca-Cola now operates. Our goal was to collect a set of diverse essays – not necessary focused on The Coca-Cola Company itself – that could help readers understand the many different ways that The Coca-Cola Company, the global beverage industry and the global economy writ large “work,” often with unjust and environmentally unsustainable effects. This collection of essays on “The Coke Complex” is now available, in the November 2007 issue (Volume 22, Number 4).
Drawing on rich ethnographic and historical material, the essays move from Mexico to India, from the U.S. to New Guinea and Fiji, examining the business and cultural practices of the global beverage industry. Each essay untangles multiple connections – between struggles over water rights, cultures of consumption, and new political strategies of activist and non-governmental organizations, for example – that demonstrate how Coca-Cola, the global beverage industry, and the global economy writ large work, often with unjust and environmentally unsustainable effects.
LINKS FROM THE INTRODUCTION
The Coca-Cola Company
The official website
United Students Against Sweatshops
International student movement fighting for sweatshop free labor conditions and worker rights
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
Official website of the international campaign led by union organizers
Killer Coke in Columbia
No Coke - digital story about the anti-Coke campaign
OTHER MEDIA LINKS
"A Student Backlash Against Coke" - (8/9/07)
Time Magazine, article by Meg Massey
"Cracking Down on Corporate Abuses Abroad" - (9/13/07)
The American Prospect, article by Anastasia Moloney
"U.S. Bending Rules on Colombia Terror?" - (7/21/07)
Los Angeles Times, article by Josh Meyer
"Congressional Testimony on Violence Against Trade Unionist in Colombia" - (6/28/07)
Human Rights Watch news coverage of US House of Representatives hearing
OTHER ORGANIZATION LINKS
Blue Planet Project
Canadian organization working to protect fresh water from the threats of trade and privatization
India Resource Center
Organization that provides information and supports movements against corporate globalization in India
Electronic periodical providing current event and issue coverage in India
Adivasi Munnetra Sangam Gudalur
Activist organization working for Adivasi rights
Grassroots Recycling Network - Coke Take-It-Back! Campaign
Archive of campaign to address Coca Cola's plastic bottle problem
Pesticide Action Network
International network of NGOs working to replace pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives
RELATED SCHOLARLY WORK
Merry, Sally Engle (2006) Transnational Human Rights and Local Activism: Mapping the Middle. American Anthropologist 108(1): 38-51.
Ho, Karen (2005) Situating Global Capitalisms: A View from Wall Street Investment Banks. Cultural Anthropology 21(1): 68-96.
Bestor, Theodore C. (2001) Supply-Side Sushi: Commodity, Market, and the Global City. American Anthropologist 103(1): 76-95.
Cunningham, Hilary (1999) The Ethnography of Transnational Social Activism: Understanding the Global as Local Practice. American Ethnologist 26(3): 583-604.
QUESTIONS FOR CLASS DISCUSSION
What do you see as the issues associated with the politics-scholarship nexus? What are the 'double binds' of pursuing so-called activist scholarship?
What is the importance of 'events' in catalyzing global action on social justice related concerns?
IN-CLASS ACTIVITY OR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
(a) Mapping Exercise—In small groups, pairs, or individually, have students make separate lists of 1) actors, institutions, or groups; 2) events; 3) historical and emerging issues; 4) other relevant factors discussed in the various essays in this cluster. Students will then draw on these lists to create a map of the interconnections and common threads running between the various essays summarized in the introduction. They should also create a similar map of any divergences they may observe. The aim of this exercise is to build a conceptual framework about an emerging global political-economic scenario, based on outlines provided by the various essays.
(b) Ask students to write memos comparing the various essays in this cluster. The aim is to think actively about similarities and differences in nature and style of argumentation, situation in relevant lieratures, theoretical framework, methodology, empirical data and literary approach.