A Cup Full of Meanings

unity-cupToday is Election Day in the United States. (If you have not voted yet, please take the time to do so if you are eligible, and then take the time to read this.) In the midst of this divisive election, when many of us have expressed strong disagreement with others over social media, if not in person, how do we restitch the social fabric in order to work together towards common goals despite all of the ways that we disagree with each other?

The new green Starbucks cup, which features a drawing of diverse people made of one continuous line, becomes an interesting corollary of this challenge. While Starbucks presented their green cups as a “symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values,” not everyone has seen it that way. Stephen Colbert quipped (at 3:40 at this link) that it was appropriate for Starbucks to produce a cup featuring “people drawn with one continuous line because what says Starbucks more than like a line that goes on forever.” Other responses have been less humorous, as some have complained about the “political brainwashing” that the cups represent, and others have associated the green of the cup with the promotion of Islam and the similarity of the general design (at least in the eyes of some) with the Arab League flag. Continue reading “A Cup Full of Meanings”

The Coffee Buzz (Or, Yet Another Example on the Powers of Suspending Reality)


My husband and I walked into a Starbucks on one recent morning, where I ordered my usual (a quad decaf espresso – ‘cause I like to chew my coffee but don’t want to have a heart attack while doing it), and he ordered a decaf pour-over. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s the name for a coffee-making technique that – as the name implies – involves pouring hot water over individual portions of coffee grounds. The rationale behind it is that it provides a very fresh tasting cup of coffee, something particularly important when you’re ordering decaf (which grows bitter and acidic quickly while it ages in those commercial carafes). Continue reading “The Coffee Buzz (Or, Yet Another Example on the Powers of Suspending Reality)”

Fabricating Origins …One Coffee Bean at a Time

photo (4)During a recent coffee run to Starbucks, an advertisement caught my eye – it read – “Ethiopia Single-Origin.” They’re many things about this ad that strike me as curious, especially the ways in which ‘Origin’ as a single and monolithic “thing” is juxtaposed over and against the country Ethiopia which is, like all places, quite heterogeneous.

These terms coupled together create a homogenizing effect through mythological constructions of singularity and originality. What could possibly be singular about the country Ethiopia and the coffee beans produced there (consider, for example, in Ethiopia, there are over 90 individual languages/communication systems operative)? Just a brief consideration of the (cross-cultural and geographical) travel involved in the producing, manufacturing and selling of commodities like coffee beans from this place and that ought to shift such discourse on the perceived distinctiveness of such claims. Continue reading “Fabricating Origins …One Coffee Bean at a Time”

“What’s Regular For You?”

6029203887_4ae9a1ff1c_zA few years ago, when our main annual conference was held in Toronto, I walked into a Starbucks downtown, on my way to the convention centre (yes, that’s how Canadians spell it — deal with it). Apart from the curious (though once familiar) experience of all of us standing in a single line and then moving to one of the three open registers each in our turn (instead of my experience here in Tuscaloosa, where it’s each consumer for him/herself once a cashier opens), there was another moment in which the practical conditions of day-to-day life in TO (yeah, that’s what people in the know call it) made evident that a rather different sense of the the subject — of the individual-in-relation-to-the-group — was in operation north of the border.

Continue reading ““What’s Regular For You?””