Discover the politics behind the chocolate in Dr Kristy Leissle's latest book with a very special post written by Dr Leissle.
February is always a busy chocolate time, but this year I started the month on an extra-special note: with a celebratory launch event for Cocoa, my new book on cocoa and chocolate politics. Cocoa joins the Polity “Resources” series, which explores the geopolitics of resources that we use in our everyday lives. In Cocoa, I extended my analysis to include personal politics as well, especially how politics of gender, race, and nationality play out along the cocoa-chocolate value chain.
Cocoa addresses all this and more, based on my fifteen years of research into the workings of this industry. I have had the good fortune as a scholar to learn with and from Divine for nearly all of that journey. When I began my doctoral fieldwork in Ghana, Divine and Kuapa Kokoo opened research doors, enabling me to spend time with farmers and to learn from their analyses of how the cocoa trade works. After I completed my PhD, I continued to look to Divine and Kuapa for research inspiration. Among other things, I published an article in the Journal of African Cultural Studies on Divine’s ad campaign featuring women members of Kuapa Kokoo, and led a study on the impact of women’s empowerment programming for cooperative members.
When it came time to write Cocoa, I had more questions for Divine. Sophi Tranchell, Managing Director, and Charlotte Borger, Communications Director, talked with me about their experiences and about the vision that Divine has always championed, of trade justice for growers. Their insights gave me much to ponder. As a scholar, I love the research process. But it is even more rewarding when I meet people who are as dedicated to justice as the team at Divine, and who share their own learnings so generously.
It was therefore very special to have Sophi speak at my book launch, which was held at the Chocolate Museum in Brixton on 1 February. Sophi offered her thoughts on the contributions that scholars make to this industry: by sticking with our topics over years, we can share a certain depth and nuance with our audiences and, with any luck, make an impact on practice and policy. We also shared a laugh when we realized we had both, separately and unknowingly, planned remarks that told the story of our first phone call when I was a green researcher, freshly arrived in Ghana, with a plan to learn all about cocoa.
We also, of course, had a chance to experience why this industry inspires passion in so many—through a chocolate tasting, expertly led by Divine Chocolateer Erik Houlihan-Jong. There is more chocolate ahead, as Divine is generously providing tasting samples for several of my upcoming book events:
University Bookstore, Seattle, WA – March 7
A Cappella Books, Atlanta, GA – March 13
Word Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY – March 18
My grateful thanks to the team at Divine, and especially to Sophi, for being such an important part of my research journey, and for helping me to celebrate the launch of Cocoa!