During a recent BBC radio four program that hosted Rob Harrison, the editor of the ethical consumer magazine, I was left feeling a little frustrated as people phoned in to talk about consumer boycotts (Call You and Yours – 21st November). The host, Julian Worricker, did a fine job in covering plenty of ground in the time allocated. However, there seemed to be a skepticism over what consumer boycotts could actually achieve. This became particularly apparent when Worricker suggested that it might be impossible to know if anti-apartheid boycotts achieved tangible success. Admittedly the show was tailored to fit the consumer topic de rigueure* (boycott action and divestment over tax evasion, by the likes of Google, Amazon and Starbucks), but I felt that a little bit of history would have gone a long way. Sarah Emily Duff, a South African historian, does an innovative job summarizing some of this history on her website on food and power – tangerineandcinnemon.
Introducing the big consumer boycott that didn’t happen: Quaker chocolate and the São Tomé cocoa scandal 1902-95 Oct
Key activist contact points: Birmingham, London
Keywords: Quakerism , paternalism, sobriety, humanitarianism, antislavery
Topoi relationship: consumer boycott avoidance demanded anti-visceral filters implemented to prevent the widespread mobilization of cocoa abjection
Trepanning/trepanned seems to have an interesting lineage. There are two meanings of trepanning, the first, also known as trephination, or making a burr hole, is a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the human skull. This horrifying and ancient form of neurosurgery was often carried out in order to let evil spirits escape from the sufferer, or to treat a compression or swelling in the brain.
Emma Robertson. Chocolate, Women and Empire, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009 ISBN: 9780719077777 (cloth).
I’m currently drafting a review for Antipode on Emma Robertson’s book, but as I think its a really good book, I’d like to give you a brief taster of its themes here.
In this, the fifth and final blog entry on anti-saccharite cultures, I consider the importance of the presence of former slaves and slave narratives to the anti-saccharite movement.
Adam Hochschild records that by the 1780s there were upwards of five thousand black men, women and children in London. The British, attempting to undermine American colonist ‘property’, offered emancipation to any slave who abandoned their American owner. Many of these former American slaves arrived in Britain attached to military units soon to be discharged from service. Others bought their freedom after a period of service as domestic slaves for wealthy families, or managed to escape from bondage. Although the majority of black people who living in London were unaccounted for by the general public, there were a number of exceptions. Below, I introduce two Atlantic creoles whose experiences, achievements and reputations became integral to the anti-saccharite movement:
“The links between First World “taste” and Third World suffering are understood by the producing nations and it has become evident that increasingly their destiny has become, in effect, a secondary effect of shifts in First World consumption patterns” (Daniel Miller 1995:3).
“Oh ye who at your ease sip the blood-sweetn’d beverage”(Southey, 1797)
Integral to the slave sugar boycott were changing ideas about food consumption. The blood-sugar topos (the ‘guilt trope’ and idea that sweetened drinks of tea, coffee and chocolate could suddenly become nauseating as they were linked to the blood of slaves) is considered by Timothy Morton to have been part of a wider culture of radical food. The guilt and horror of eating human flesh by association was supplemented by an increasing sympathy for bodies in pain. According to Thomas Laquer (1990) an intensified public sympathy for bodies in pain percolated society through scientific discourse. Biological evidence of maladies and suffering derived from rigorous attempts at objective autopsy reports and in the ‘realistic’ documentation and depiction of the body and its organs.