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New book by UO Soc prof: “Tasting Coffee: An Inquiry into Objectivity”

Professor Emeritus Ken Liberman has completed his study of coffee and the results will be published in his upcoming book, due out this fall, titled Tasting Coffee: An Inquiry into Objectivity (SUNY Press). This work promises to add another excellent contribution to his productive and meaningful career, and we are delighted to congratulate him on this accomplishment!

A summary of the book is provided below:

Based upon a decade of research in 14 countries, the 500-page study presents a non-essentialist ontology of coffee, its history and its production, that undermines fetishized reifications of coffee that facilitate profit-making in the global coffee industry. It is at once ethnographic and phenomenological; however, it provides not one ethnography but a dozen (including growers, processors, exporters, buyers, professional tasters, importers, blenders, roasters, marketers, baristas, sensory scientists, and consumers). Coffee tasting is investigated by tracing the global chain of coffee production “from seed to cup,” stopping at every stage along the way and describing the tasting and thinking practices of each of these stakeholders in the purveying of coffee. Particular attention is devoted to how tasters convert what is subjective experience into objective knowledge that can be shared and made reliable.

Tasting Coffee is a study in the sociological tradition of Simmel (The Philosophy of Money), Benjamin (The Arcades Project), and the situated studies of Garfinkel (Ethnomethodology’s Program), all of who examined just how local parties produce live social structures. A series of naturally occurring ethnographic case studies provide specifications of postmodern humanity, and the world of coffee becomes a microcosm in which current societal dilemmas are exposed and interrogated.