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Accepted Paper:

Cocoa materialities: plantation histories of labor and race  

Author:

Marta Macedo

Paper short abstract:

This paper builds upon a detailed study of São Tomé plantation cocoa and its labouring practices, that were both racialized and gendered, to discuss the concrete material dynamics of industrial modes of production, imperial and capitalist relations that sustained the modern world.

Paper long abstract:

In the late 19th century, scientific and technical transformations in chocolate factories, aimed at standardizing products and production processes alike, altered the way chocolate was valued, marketed and experienced. From an exquisite beverage drunk by a wealthy few, chocolate powders emerged as one of the most popular mass market foods in Europe. Following on Mintz steps and his urge for connecting production and consumption stories, this paper focuses on São Tomé plantation cocoa and Cadbury's chocolates to discuss the concrete material dynamics of industrial modes of production, imperial and capitalist relations that sustained the modern world.

Despite the use of concepts such as materiality or materialism in the history and anthropology of commodities, very often cash-crops and the labor necessary to produce them are presented as abstract or disembodied categories. This paper, on the contrary, takes seriously the materiality of cocoa and builds upon a detailed study of plantation labouring practices that were both racialized and gendered. It will examine the production of cocoa for the market and the production of segregated spaces and regulated race and gender relations as part of the same process. Experimental and brutal management governing people and environment were an integral part of the commodification process of cocoa. By showing factories dependence on plantation cocoa this paper will also highlight the racialized dimension of modern capitalism.

Panel P033
Bringing race-making and class struggles in plantations and export industries back to the research agenda