Elisabeth Schimpfössl: The Super-Rich of Russia

Following on from last week’s discussion of global povertyThe Provocateur turns its attention to the other end of the social scale: the super-rich, who have often been neglected in sociological studies of inequality. In Russia as in other post-Communist countries, capitalism is a relatively new phenomenon, creating in some cases a backlash from older Soviet-born generations against the burgeoning rise of mass consumption. Philanthropy is also becoming trendy among Russian multi-millionaires and billionaires, apparently in response to major disparities in income and wealth.

In this installment of The Provocateur I talk to Elisabeth Schimpfössl, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL, about her intriguing work researching the lives of Russia’s 0.1%. We discuss the historical context of Russian inequality in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, before zooming in on the super-rich themselves. We investigate the gendered dynamics of Russian elites, their attitudes to the current regime and their motivations for charitable giving. Towards the end of the episode we also explore the future of Russian politics and the viability of comparisons with another highly oil-dependent country, Venezuela.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Loic Bourdeau: Québec Pride (Canada 150 Miniseries)

Today’s installment of The Provocateur concludes our month-long Canada 150 miniseries with a trip to Québec. Québécois culture has a strong claim to being the foundation of modern Canadian society, since the first European settlers north of Florida were French explorers in what is now Canadian territory in the 16th and 17th centuries. Jacques Cartier first sighted the St Lawrence River in the 1530s; Samuel de Champlain, ‘The Father of New France’, founded what would become Québec City in 1608. As Québec society moved into the 20th and 21st centuries along with the rest of Canada, it had to engage with the questions of gender and sexuality that all liberal democracies have had to confront in recent decades.

In this episode I talk to Loic Bourdeau, assistant professor of French at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, to discuss gender and sexuality in Québécois literature and film. We first look at milestones in Québécois literary history, from the farm novel to the Quiet Revolution and beyond, before exploring the themes of independence and sovereignty, motherhood and sexuality. We also reflect on the future direction of Québec society and what that might mean for cultural developments.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Baillargeon, Denyse (2011) “Quebec Women of the Twentieth Century: Milestones in an Unfinished Journey”, Quebec Questions. Don Mills: Oxford UP, 2011. 231-247.

Barrette, Jean-Marc (1996) L’univers de Michel Tremblay. Montreal: U of Montreal Press.

Boucher-Marchand, Monique (1997) “Michel Tremblay et l’autobiographie du Nous.” La création biographique. Rennes: U of Rennes.

Bourdeau, Loic (2012) “F.O.L.L.E. société: déconstruction et reconstruction identitaire dans C.R.A.Z.Y.” Nouvelles Etudes Francophones. 27.1: 130-144.

Bourdieu, Pierre (1998) La domination masculine. Paris: Seuil.

Chapman, Rosemary (2013) What is Québécois Literature? Liverpool: Liverpool UP.

Dickinson, Peter (1999) Here is Queer: Nationalisms, Sexualities, and the Literatures of Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto Press.

Eribon, Didier (1999) Réflexions sur la question gay. Paris: Fayard.

Foucault, Michel (1976) Histoire de la sexualité. La volonté de savoir. Paris: Gallimard.

Green, Mary Jean (2011) Women and Narrative Identity. Rewriting the Quebec National Text. London: McGill UP.

Lacoursière, Jacques, Jean Provencher, and Denis Vaugeois (2011) Canada-Québec 1534-2010. Quebec: Septentrion.

Lamoureux, Diane (2011) “The Paradoxes of Quebec Feminism.” Quebec Questions. Don Mills: Oxford UP.

Lévesque, Andrée (1994) Making and Breaking the Rules: Women in Quebec, 1919-1939. Trans. Yvonne M. Klein. Toronto: U of Toronto Press.

Marshall, Bill (2001) Quebec National Cinema. London: McGill UP.

Muñoz, José Esteban (2009) Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York UP.

Richer, Jocelyne (2015) “Le CSF dit craindre un retour au foyer.” Ledevoir.ca. 29 Jan. 2015.

Schwartzwald, Robert (1993) “‘Symbolic’ Homosexuality, ‘False Feminine,’ and the Problematics of Identity in Québec.” Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press.

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. (in press) 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.