Supplemental composed by Alison Kenner, RPI, October 2007
This essay was published as part of 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. See Editor's Note supplemental page.
“Consuming Interests: Water, Rum, and Coca-Cola from Ritual Propitiation to Corporate Expropriation in Highlands Chiapas”
June Nash, Distinguished Professor Emerita
Anthropology, City University of New York
In the 22:4 issue of Cultural Anthropology, June Nash calls for sociocultural analyses that help “ensure sustainable development and equitable distribution” of natural resources. Nash’s essay, “Consuming Interests: Water, Rum, and Coca-Cola from Ritual Propitiation to Corporate Expropriation in Highlands Chiapas,” examines different practices by political, religious, and transnational actors that exemplify the politicization and commoditization of water in a neoliberal economy.
Arguing that “water has a human rights dimension,” Nash tells the story of water systems in Mexico during contemporary, colonial, and preconquest periods. The extraction of water by The Coca-Cola Company in Chiapas not only deprives local communities of a fundamental resource, Nash reasons, but also results in “growing conflicts among indigenous people.” The essay demonstrates the impacts of Coca-Cola’s extraction of a resource “once considered a gift of the gods,” and how indigenous communities are now major consumers of Coca-Cola beverages. Nash’s compelling essay weaves histories of water systems with cultural analysis of the shift from rum to soft drinks in indigenous rituals, together with changing relationships among corporate and political authorities, local and national. This essay will be especially relevant to readers interested in neoliberal economies, resource privatization and expropriation, ritual, indigenous politics, the intersection of religion and consumption, Mesoamerica, and Chiapas, Mexico.
June Nash is a distinguished professor emerita of anthropology at City University of New York. Other essays on the Coca-Cola Company and water politics can be found in the 22:4 issue of Cultural Anthropology (www.culanth.org).
Cultural Anthropology has published a number of other essays that examine relationships between corporations and local cultures. See, for example, Suzana Sawyer’s “Bobbittizing Texaco: Dis-Membering Corporate Capital and Re-Membering the Nation in Ecuador”; David Pedersen’s “The Storm We Call Dollars: Determining Value and Belief in El Salvador and the United States”; and Thomas Williamson’s “Incorporating a Malaysian Nation.”
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