The Anthropology of Globalization: Cultural Anthropology Enters the 21st Century

By Ted C. Lewellen | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

Globalization from the Ground Up

It should not again be necessary to emphasize that global process includes by definition and is even constituted by the articulation between local and global structures. The former is never a deduction from the latter.

Jonathan Friedman 1

On average, food consumed in the United States has traveled 1,300 miles and changed hands a dozen times. This is not a peculiarly American phenomenon, but one that is increasingly global. As a result, production and distribution practices are invisible to the consumer, yet consumer culture holds a very strong power relation for quite distant people, shaping their lives in both obvious and subtle ways.

A study by Jane Collins (2000) reveals how European consumer preferences can impoverish even highly efficient small farmers and radically alter gender relations in Brazil. Grapes destined for Europe must be of consistently high quality. Because demand is year-round, northern countries depend on the Southern Hemisphere for winter production; the United States gets its grapes from Chile; Europe turns to South Africa and Brazil. In the São Francisco valley of Brazil, two-thirds of the crop is grown by eighteen large firms, while the remaining third is produced by about 300 farms of under six hectares. Because of close family management, these small farms produce significantly higher quality at considerably lower cost than the larger farms, yet they are constantly struggling to survive. While the labor-intensive production process favors the small farmer, the distribution system advantages the large-scale agribusiness. Grapes must be refriger-

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