Consider the Coconut

By: Constance Kirker  

This presentation examines examples of the power of visual imagery to convey complex and even conflicting political concepts. The iconic image of the coconut has a range of meanings, implications, and interpretations from representations as a symbol of national identity and pride to references to colonial imperialism or even a racial slur. Grown primarily in developing countries, from questions of stereotypes or political correctness in the coconut characters in Disney’s Moana to the use of phrases “Coconut Republic”, “Coconut Election” and “Coconut Democracy”, coconut represents “the other” in many Western contexts.

Democracy, Politics, Election, Republic, The Other
The Arts in Social, Political, and Community Life
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Prof. Constance Kirker

Assistant Professor, Integrative Arts, Penn State University

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Arts at Penn State University Brandywine, with a research focus on international arts education, Asian Art History and Culinary History.I teach art history, Western, as well as East Asian, South Asian and African from a comparative perspective. I have participated as a faculty member in the University of Virginia's "Semester -at-Sea"program, circumnavigating the globe with 700 university students, four times. In the last five years turning to culinary history,I have recently published a book on the history of edible flowers and my current research is in the history of coconut. I have presented more than 25 papers in the last ten years at conferences from London and Paris to Cambodia and Japan.