Mezcal Networks, Social Nodes, and the Ability of Materials, Individuals, and Social Trends to Affect Cultural Change

By: Timothy Etzkorn  

This paper will conjoin material culture theories with network analysis to consider how a food - in this case, the alcohol, mezcal - can operate as an actant (Latour 1996) with the ability to alter social interests and cultural attitudes. This paper will further examine how an individual can mobilize social networks through material encounters to affect attitudinal change. By building a network analysis based on ethnographic methodologies, in-depth interviews, and field notes taken between August 2017 and August 2018 in the U.S. and in Mexico’s Oaxaca region, this paper will explore how encounters with mezcal can impact perspectives on culture, the environment, and glocalization. To do so, this paper will employ two levels of analysis: the first will focus on a primary informant’s network and their effort to create a trend around mezcal and raicilla in order to boost Mexico’s economy while also encouraging a more ecologically diverse agave crop; the second level of analysis will examine mezcal and raicilla’s vitality (Bennett 2010) and the potential they have to alter a network’s attitude about culture and the environment. In such, this paper will use an ethnographic case to theorize around the rhetorical capabilities of food and the ability of networks to affect cultural change. This research is especially exigent now, in the Cambridge Analytica age, where recent political events have shown that cultural shifts impact social, political, and environmental events. As a result, we can benefit from theory that helps understand how trends can motivate cultural movements.

Mezcal, Food-culture Networks
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mr. Timothy Etzkorn