Kristy Leissle: The Cultural Politics of Chocolate

From its mysterious origins deep in the rainforests of Central America to the gluttonous foodstuff we all know and love today, chocolate (not to mention its parent cocoa) has been an integral part of human society for centuries. The Aztecs used cocoa in rituals and as a form of currency as well as for nourishment. In early modern Spain, Catholic theologians argued over whether drinking chocolate could be seen to break the ecclesiastical fast. Chocolate pioneers in the nineteenth century promoted it as an alternative to alcohol, in keeping with the temperance movement that was all the rage at the time. Even in the modern world it has provoked strong emotional perceptions, from innocent treat to sexualized indulgence to junk food. Chocolate is a symbol of global inequality, cultural mores and social anxieties about health, religion, morality, sexuality, race and gender.

This week on The Provocateur we are joined by Kristy Leissle, a lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell, to discuss the cultural politics of chocolate. We talk about the history of chocolate from the Aztecs to the present, the politics of chocolate branding (using some rather tasty examples) and the future of the chocolate industry in an age of global climate change. Hopefully after listening to this episode you will never look at a chocolate bar in the same way again!

You can listen to the podcast here: 

These are images of the chocolate bars discussed during the show, for reference:

Further Reading:

Allen, L. L. (2009) Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Beckett, S. T. (2008) The Science of Chocolate. Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Coe, S. D. and M. D. Coe (2013) The True History of Chocolate, third edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Forrest, B. M. and A. L. Najjaj (2007) ‘Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain’, Food and Foodways 5(1-2), pp. 31-52. [See also the rest of this journal issue.]

Jones, C. A. (2013) ‘Exotic Edibles: Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Early Modern French How-to’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 43(3), pp. 623-653.

Leissle, K. (2018) Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press (in the ‘Resources’ series).

Mintz, S. (1985) Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking-Penguin.

Norton, M. (2006) ‘Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics’, American Historical Review 111(3), pp. 660-691.

____ (2010) Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Richardson, B. (2015) Sugar. Cambridge: Polity Press (in the ‘Resources’ series).

Robertson, E. (2009) Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Ryan, O. (2011) Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed Books.

Satre, L. J. (2005) Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Laura Madokoro: The History of Humanitarianism in Canada (Canada 150 Miniseries)

This episode of The Provocateur kicks off a special month-long miniseries to coincide with Canada 150: a series of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. While it is frequently derided as the backyard of the United States, Canada possesses a rich, complex and colourful history; today it is rightly celebrated as an outward-looking and multicultural nation. Yet its spirit of progressive pluralism belies the stinging legacies of both indigenous dispossession and the oppression of racial and ethnic minorities. Some of the darkest episodes of Canada’s recent past can be found in the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as Japanese internment during WWII. Though Canada sought to establish itself as a humanitarian power in the postwar period, it continues to be haunted by the injustices of history.

To discuss the history of humanitarianism and immigration in Canada, The Provocateur is joined today by Laura Madokoro, who is assistant professor in the department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University. We explore the history of anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment in nineteenth and early twentieth century Canada, the relationship between humanitarianism and settler colonialism, the significance of the Indochinese refugee crisis for Canadian foreign policy and the amazing story of the first official refugees from China to Canada in 1962. Finally we bring our discussion up to the contemporary moment, with the provocative question of whether Islamophobia is the new yellow peril.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Correction: The episode is mentioned as being the second in the Canada 150 miniseries, as it was still scheduled as such at the time of recording. However due to unforeseen circumstances, it will now be broadcast as the first episode. Apologies for the oversight.

Further Reading:

Gatrell, P. (2013) The Making of the Modern Refugee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Madokoro, L., F. McKenzie and D. Meren (eds.) (2017) Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Mar, L. (2010) Brokering Belonging: Chinese in Canada’s Exclusion Era, 1885-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Roy, P. (2010) The Triumph of Citizenship: The Japanese and Chinese in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Yu, H. (2015) ‘Conceptualizing a Pacific Canada Within and Without Nations’, in Dubinsky, K. et al. (eds.) Within and Without the Nation: Canada’s History as Transnational History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Joshua Black: Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Vietnamese Literature

Vietnam is probably best known to listeners from its complex and tangled relationship with foreign powers, especially France and the United States. As well as being a popular backpacking destination, it also now has a burgeoning LGBT subculture. The LGBT rights movement has exploded in the country in recent years, even as wider Vietnamese society struggles to move past colonial-era negative stereotypes of homosexuality.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur — a holdover from LGBT History Month — I talk to Joshua Black, who has just completed his PhD at SOAS (London) on representations of male homosexuality in contemporary Vietnamese literature. We discuss French colonial attitudes towards homosexuality, compare them to gay male identities in 21st century Vietnamese writing and explore the implications for our understanding of changing attitudes to homosexuality in Vietnamese culture.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Colonial era Vietnamese attitudes towards homosexuality:

Proschan, Frank (2002) ‘Eunuch Mandarins, Soldats Mamzelles, Effeminate Boys, and Graceless Women: French Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese Genders’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 8(4), pp. 435-467.

Proschan, Frank (2002b) ‘Syphilis, Opiomania and Pederasty: Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 11(4), pp. 610-636.

On HIV/AIDS:

Colby, D. J. (2003) ‘HIV Knowledge and Risk Factors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’, JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 32, pp. 80-85

Blanc, Marie-Eve (2005) Social Construction of Male Homosexualities in Vietnam. Some Keys to Understanding Discrimination and Implications for HIV Prevention Strategy. UNESCO, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Modern social context:

Nguyễn Quốc Vinh (2015) ‘Cultural Ambiguity in Contemporary Vietnamese Representations of Homosexuality: A New Historicist Reading of Bùi Anh Tấn’s Fiction’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 10(3), pp. 48-86.

Lại Nguyên Ân and Alec Holcombe (2010) ‘The Heart and Mind of the Poet Xuân Diệu: 1054-1958’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 5(2), pp. 1-90.

Bryan Pitts: Sexual Liberation with Political Liberation? Race, Sexuality, Nationality and Democracy in Contemporary Brazil

In the final episode of our month-long miniseries for LGBT History Month, The Provocateur travels to Brazil, arguably one of the most important emerging markets at the moment as well as being a vibrant and dynamic country in its own right. While it may have hit the headlines most recently for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff – and the subsequent return to power of the main conservative faction in Congress, led by Michel Temer – Brazil also has a long and complicated history of colonialism, decolonisation and dictatorship. This has inevitably impacted on the ways in which LGBT people express their sexuality and how they are perceived by mainstream Brazilian society.

Today I talk to Bryan Pitts, a lecturer in history at the University of Georgia, for a fascinating look at the interplay of race, sexuality, nationality and democracy in contemporary Brazil. We discuss the historical context of the dictatorship years of 1964-1985 and the transition to democracy, the legacies of Portuguese rule, the thesis that sexual liberalisation has gone along with political liberalisation and the particular challenges facing transgendered people. We also talk about Bryan’s research on Brazilian gay magazines and gay sex tourism.

You can listen to part one of the podcast here: 

Part two is here: 

Hannah Telling: 50 Years Since the Sexual Offences Act 1967

Today The Provocateur continues its miniseries for LGBT History Month with a special episode to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised same-sex intercourse between consenting male adults in England and Wales. Since the Act was passed we have witnessed great strides in the acceptance of LGBT people in the UK but also a backlash against said visibility. This was especially true from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, which saw the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the enforcement of Section 28, a law which explicitly banned the teaching of homosexuality in English, Welsh and Scottish state schools.

In this episode I interview Hannah Telling, a PhD student in History at the University of Glasgow, to discuss the historical context of the Sexual Offences Act, the legal and political complexities of the Scottish exemption from the Act, the changing climate for LGBT people in Britain since the Act and continuing challenges to LGBT rights progress.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Note: Cllr Tom Hayes of Oxford City Council is looking for gay men with a pre-1967 Oxford connection to tell their stories about gay life in the city before decriminalisation. For more information go to http://bit.ly/fiftyyearsoxford.

Further Reading:

Cook, M. (2007) ‘From Gay Reform to Gaydar, 1967-2006’, in Cook, M.  (ed.) A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men since the Middle Ages. Oxford: Greenwood World Publishing.

Davidson, R. and G. Davis (2006) ‘Sexuality and the State: the Campaign for Scottish Homosexual Law Reform, 1967-1980’, Contemporary British History 20(4), pp. 533-558.

Jeffrey-Poulter, S. (1991) Peers, Queers and Commons: The Struggle for Gay Reform from 1950 to the Present. London: Routledge.

Jivani, A. (1997) It’s Not Unusual: A History of Lesbian and Gay Britain in the Twentieth Century. London: Michael O’Mara Books.

Meek, J. (2015) Queer Voices in Post-War Scotland: Male Homosexuality, Religion and Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Weeks, J. (2016) Coming Out: The Emergence of LGBT Identities in Britain from the 19th Century to the Present. London: Quartet Books.

 

Philip Freestone: Discourses of Marriage and Sexuality among Gay and Bisexual Men in Contemporary China

In the second of a short run of episodes focusing on LGBT topics for LGBT History Month, The Provocateur talks to Philip Freestone, a PhD candidate in Linguistics at the University of Reading, about discourses of marriage and sexuality among men who have sex with men (MSMs) in contemporary mainland China. In particular, we focus on Philip’s interest in the recent explosion of matchmaking websites that set up marriages of convenience between non-heterosexual men and women and the ways in which this phenomenon reflects culturally ingrained understandings of homosexuality. Among other things, we discuss Confucian ideals of marriage and how they restrict non-normative sexual expression; the tension between public indifference towards homosexuality and private shame; the consequences of the one-child policy for the marriage market; and the potential for homosexual and bisexual men to exploit the traditional archetype of the effeminate scholar in Chinese conceptions of masculinity in order to contest heteronormativity.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

If you are interested in getting in touch with Phil, feel free to email him at: P.J.Freestone@pgr.reading.ac.uk.

Further Reading:

Altman, D. (1997) ‘Global Gaze/Global Gays’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 3(4), pp. 417-436.

Cho, J. (2009) ‘The Wedding Banquet Revisited: “Contract Marriages” Between Korean Gays and Lesbians‘, Anthropological Quarterly 82(2), pp. 401-422.

Chou, W. S. (2000) Tongzhi: Politics of Same-Sex Eroticism in Chinese Societies. Binghamton: Haworth Press.

Gee, J. P. (2015) Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses, fifth edition. London: Routledge.

Hinsch, B. (1990) Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China. Oxford: University of California Press.

Ho, L. W. W. (2010) Gay and Lesbian Subculture in Urban China. Abingdon: Routledge.

Jones, R. H. (2012) Discourse Analysis. Oxford and New York: Routledge.

Louie, K. (2002) Theorising Chinese Masculinity: Society and Gender in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kong, T. S. (2011) Chinese Male Homosexualities: Memba, Tongzhi and Golden Boy. Oxford: Routledge.

Lau, H. et al. (2017) ‘Assessing the Tongzhi Label: Self-Identification and Public Opinion‘, Journal of Homosexuality 64(4), pp. 509-522.

Leap, W. and T. Boellstorff (2004) Speaking in Queer Tongues: Globalization and Gay Language. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Li, Y. (2006) ‘Regulating male same-sex relationships in the People’s Republic of China’, in Jeffreys, E. (ed.) Sex and Sexuality in China. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 82-101.

Miège, P. (2009) ‘“In my Opinion, most Tongzhi are Dutiful Sons!” Community, social norms, and construction of identity among young homosexuals in Hefei, Anhui Province‘, China Perspectives 1, pp. 40-53.

Rofel, L. (2007) Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

Scollon, R. and S. W. Scollon (2004) Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet. London: Routledge.

Scollon, R. et al. (2012) Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach. Oxford: Wiley & Sons.

Wei, W. (2016) ‘Good Gay Buddies for Lifetime: Homosexually Themed Discourse and the Construction of Heteromasculinity Among Chinese Urban Youth’, Journal of Homosexuality (pre-print publication)

Jamie Pow: Democracy Without Politicians? Citizen-Centred Democratic Solutions in Northern Ireland

If you’ve been following the news in Northern Ireland lately you might have noticed the serious political crisis emerging there, which has led to the resignation of the Deputy First Minister and the de facto resignation of the First Minister. Ostensibly the cause is a row over renewable energy incentives, but it points to deeper problems in Stormont’s power-sharing arrangement that threaten to undermine the legitimacy of Northern Irish institutions in the long term.

Today on The Provocateur I talk to Jamie Pow, who is a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, about his arguably radical solution to Northern Ireland’s institutional difficulties: an assembly of randomly-shared citizens that would deliberate on contentious legislative matters. We discuss the experience of other places where citizens’ assemblies have been tried, the particular challenges faced by the Northern Irish context and future directions for his research.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Brennan, J. (2011) ‘The Right to a Competent Electorate’, The Philosophical Quarterly 61(245), pp. 700-724.

_____ (2012) The Ethics of Voting. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fishkin, J. S. (2009) When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McCrudden, C. et al. (2016) ‘Why Northern Ireland’s Institutions Need Stability’, Government and Opposition 51(1), pp. 30-58.

McEvoy, J. and B. O’Leary (eds.) (2013) Power-Sharing in Deeply Divided Places. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Norris, P. (2011) Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

van Reybrouck, D. (2016) Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, trans. Liz Waters. London: Penguin Random House.