The Political Ecology of Beverages
Spring 2012
ACR 891, Section 1
Fridays, 12:40 to 3:30 pm, 306 Natural Resources Bldg.
Instructor: Phil Howard
Brief Description
Case studies of beverages from a political ecology perspective. Production, consumption and links in between. Characterization of the retail beverage landscape using information graphics.
Course Description
This interdisciplinary course will examine critical issues in the food system through case studies and field investigations of seven beverages: beer, wine, coffee, tea, soft drinks, bottled water and orange juice. For each beverage we will explore production, consumption, and the links in between, using a political ecology framework (critical political economy, with attention to environmental issues). We will also use visual methods to characterize the retail beverage landscape, and depict relationships that are often hidden from consumers, producers and other key actors.
Course Objectives
  • Develop a better understanding of agrifood systems through case studies of popular beverages.
  • Critically examine key issues in agrifood research including ecological sustainability, globalization, power and inequality.
  • Develop a scholarly capacity for analyzing and visualizing commodity systems, drawing on disciplines including anthropology, development studies, ecology, economics, geography, history, political science and sociology.
Course Approach
This course is organized as a small seminar with a commitment to developing collaborative learning among all who participate. 
Course Prerequisites
Graduate standing or permission from instructor. ACR 811 (Community, Food and Agriculture: A Survey) is recommended, but not required.
Course Assignments and Evaluation
Assignments include required readings, participation in class discussions, a group research project and an individual research project. Evaluation will be based equally on class participation, the group project, and the individual project.
Required Texts
  • Elizabeth Royte. 2008. Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It.
  • Julie MacIntosh. 2010. Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon.
  • Tyler Colman. 2010. Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink.
  • Sarah Rose. 2010. For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History.
  • Daniel Jaffee. 2007. Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival.
  • Michael Blanding. 2010. The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink.
  • Alissa Hamilton. 2009. Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice.
Recommended Text
  • Paul Robbins. 2011. Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction. 2nd Edition.

Additional readings as assigned

Political Ecology, Water
   Jan. 13
   Jan. 20
   Jan. 27
   Feb. 3
   Feb. 10
   Feb. 17
   Feb. 24
   Mar. 2
   Mar. 16
   Mar. 23
Soft Drinks
   Mar. 30
   Apr. 6
Orange Juice
   Apr. 13
   Apr. 20
   Apr. 27