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Making the Market: Specialty Coffee, Generational Pitches, and Papua New Guinea

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Today the commodity circuit for specialty coffee seems to be made up of socially conscious consumers, well-meaning and politically engaged roasters and small companies, and poor yet ecologically noble producers who want to take part in the flows of global capital, while at the same time living in close harmony with the natural world. This paper examines how these actors are produced by changes in the global economy that are sometimes referred to as neoliberalism. It also shows how images of these actors are produced and what the material effects of those images are. It begins with a description of how generations are understood and made by marketers. Next it shows how coffee production in Papua New Guinea, especially Fair Trade and organic coffee production, is turned into marketing narratives meant to appeal to particular consumers. Finally, it assesses the success of the generational-based marketing of Papua New Guinea-origin, Fair Trade and organic coffees, three specialty coffee types that are marketed heavily to the “Millenial generation”, people born between 1983 and 2000.

Keywords: Papua New Guinea; certification; coffee production; marketing; neoliberalization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University, and Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA; ;, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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