Home » Culture, Anthropology, and Economy

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Joseph A. Torres-González, MA
PhD Student in
Cultural Anthropology
Email: jtorresgonzalez @ gradcenter.cuny.edu

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Culture, Anthropology, and Economy

Anthropology as a disciplinary field has engaged extensively with the study of economics and political economy in various ways: analyzing the exchange of gifts (Mauss, 1925), the historical accumulation of debt (Graeber, 2011), neoliberalism (Harvey, 2005), market society and nation state (Polanyi, 1945), and new strains of theoretical development, such as feminist approaches to the study of capitalism (Ho, 2015), racial capitalism (Ralph & Singhal, 2019), gender and labor (Nash, 2005), and imperialism (Galeano, 1971). Why is this very brief theoretical history important for us? It provides a snapshot of the different contributions and context of the origins of the concepts and theories used in these subfields of Cultural Anthropology, and how they can be used for the study of coffee and food.

In this section you, you may find resources related to Economic Anthropology and Political Economy. It is not representative of all the theoretical debates and contributions developed in the subfield, but it provides a good introduction, along with a list of resources/books/articles that can be used while preparing your teaching materials/lessons.

A- Books*

  • Classical works in Political Economy & Economic Anthropology

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1913 (2015). The accumulation of capital. New York: Benediction Classics.

Polanyi, Karl. (1944). The great transformation. New York: Octagon Books.

Mauss, Marcel. (1954). The gift: the form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. New York: WW Hurton.

Marx, Karl. 1867. (2011). Capital: a critique of political economy. Mineola: Dover Publications.

  • Contemporary works

Besky, Sarah. (2013). The Darjeeling distinction: labor and justice in fair-trade tea plantations in India. Durham: Duke University Press.

Chrzan, Janet & John A. Brett. (2017). Food Culture: anthropology, linguistics and food studies. New York: Berghahn Books.

Galeano, Eduardo. 1971. (2009). Open veins of Latin America: five centuries of the pillage of a continentLondon: Serpents Tail.

Graeber, David. (2001). Toward an anthropological theory of value: the false coin of our own dreams. New York: Palgrave.

Graeber, David. (2011). Debt: The first 5,000 years. Brooklyn: Melville House.

Gudeman, Stephen F. Economic Anthropology. Northampton: Elgar Publishers.

Harvey, David. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ho, Karen. (2009). Liquidated: an ethnography of Wall Street. Durham: Duke University Press.

Klein, Jakob A. & James L. Watson (2015). The Handbook of Food and Anthropology. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Lyon, Sarah. (2010). Coffee and community: Maya farmers and trade markets. Boulder: The University of Boulder Press.

Mintz, Sidney (1986). Sweetness and Power: the place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books.

Nash, June. (2005). “Women in Between: Globalization and the New Enlightenment.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 31(1), 145–167.

Ralph, M. & Singhal, M. (2019). “Racial capitalism.” Theory and Society, 48(6), 851–881.

Roseberry, William. (1983). Coffee and capitalism in the Venezuelan AndesAustin: The University of Texas Press.

Tucker, Catherine M. (2011). Coffee culture: local experiences, global connections. New York: Routledge.

West, Paige. (2012). From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: the social world of coffee from Papua New Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press.

Ziegler, Catherine. (2007). Favored Flowers: Culture and Economy in a Global System. Durham: Duke University Press.

*this is a sample of Books and publications in Anthropology.

B- Multimedia Resources (Documentaries/Videos)**

1- Fraley, Maisie. (2016) Economic AnthropologyShort Lecture – Front Range Community College

2-Fraley, Maisie. (2016) Gift GivingShort Lecture – Front Range Community College


**this is a sample of video lectures and videos on Economic anthropology and exchange.