Alyssa Adina Lori James

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Columbia U.

Grant number

Gr. 10313

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

James, Alyssa (Columbia U.) "Cultivating Heritage: Interrogating the Revival of Coffee Production in Martinique"

Martinican heritage leaders frame the island’s nascent coffee revival project as contributing to the island’s autonomy by reclaiming its natural heritage. The project’s narrative draws heavily on the island’s legacy as the first producer of coffee in the New World while silencing the history of slavery and colonialism that made such a heritage possible. This recasting of the past and partnership with a Japanese company reveal the complications and contradictions of the project’s goals. I ask: How do Martinicans come to terms with this revival of the colonial past in the supposedly postcolonial present, and what might their responses have to teach us about what sovereignty and postcoloniality in the contemporary world can mean? Through participant-observation and interviews with local farmers and heritage organizers, environmental scientists, and tastemakers, I will examine the desires, commercial tactics, political interventions, and scientific discourses that contribute to transforming Martinican history and coffee into cultural heritage, and the consequences of this ongoing process for Martinicans. The production of heritage and its implications are often only reconstructed historically; my research offers a rare opportunity to interrogate this process and the way heritage rearranges relationships between land, identity, and temporality as it unfolds in real time.