Broken Idols: Migration, Globalization, and Cultural Change in Honduras
Reichman, Daniel Ross
This is an ethnographic study of a coffee-growing community in Honduras, which was in the midst of a transition to economic reliance on migration to the United States from 2001 to 2004, when field research was conducted by the author. The author focuses on the origins and contemporary dynamics of Honduran emigration, and explores the impact of emigration on local society and culture. He argues that migration has led to a profound sense of confusion within a single community, identified by the pseudonym of "La Quebrada." In this town, migration is generally described in negative terms, and migrants are often seen as the cause of socioeconomic crisis, rather than its victims. The author describes two local responses to emigration in La Quebrada: the rise of evangelical churches and the establishment of a fair trade coffee cooperative. Evangelical churches offer solutions to many of the social problems caused by emigration, and fair trade production offers an economic alternative to migration for coffee farmers. He draws a parallel between local criticisms of migrants as the source of social decline, the explanations of social crisis offered by the evangelical churches, and the philosophy of fair trade. In each case, people express concern about the manner in which their community has been integrated into the global economy, but they believe that individual behavior is the only viable source of social reform. This emphasis on the individual, abstracted from social totalities, limits the political potential of these movements. The author concludes that these movements articulate a sense of popular anxiety over the community's future, and a desire to refashion society for the collective good. However, the forms that these popular responses have taken is based on a belief that no political institution can mediate between the individual and the global market. The tendency to conceptualize sociopolitical reform in individualized terms, he argues, reflects macro-level cultural changes that have occurred around the globe in the past twenty years.
Terence Turner, Dominic Boyer, Maria Cristina Garcia
Honduras; anthropology; emigration; coffee; globalization; evangelical religion; fair trade
dissertation or thesis