Te tua xơ mướp: Concerning Risk and the Future in the Vietnamese Coffee Industry

Sarah G. Grant, doctoral candidate
Department of Anthropology
UC Riverside

Friday, May 17, 2013
12:10 PM
(INTS) 1113 SymposiumRoom

As the second largest coffee producer in the world, Vietnam plays a significant role in influencing the global coffee industry while simultaneously piloting global market prices. Actors within the Vietnamese coffee industry navigate this role through a multitude of accountability practices and knowledge production and exchange, in effect, revealing much about the intricacies of a rapidly expanding global coffee producer.

This talk explores these routes of navigation through a discourse of risk and the future as defined by Vietnamese coffee producers, auditors, and industry experts but also by the international organizations that seek to regulate them.  As foreign investment in the coffee industry increases and diversifies, Vietnamese notions of risk and visions of the future become mediums of both success and failure. Risk is inherent in the industry as external variables – frost in Brazil, a pest infestation in Indonesia, a long rainy season in the Vietnamese central highlands – mediate the future livelihood of those working in the industry and the future of the industry itself.  Using the coffee industry as a lens, I argue that local discourses about risk and the future are integral to elucidating the complexities of global commodity production and trade, thus creating a space for Vietnamese coffee actors to apprehend, cultivate, and contest risk and future visions of Vietnam’s role in a modern global economy.