Cover of Broccoli and Desire by Edward F. Fischer and Peter Benson
Broccoli and Desire
Global Connections and Maya Struggles in Postwar Guatemala
Edward F. Fischer and Peter Benson


224 pages.
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Hardcover now $50.00 (50% off)
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Hardcover ISBN: 9780804754040
Paperback ISBN: 9780804754842


Excerpts and More

This book takes a surprising look at the hidden world of broccoli, connecting American consumers concerned about their health and diet with Maya farmers concerned about holding onto their land and making a living.

Compelling life stories and rich descriptions from ethnographic fieldwork among supermarket shoppers in Nashville, Tennessee and Maya farmers in highland Guatemala bring the commodity chain of this seemingly mundane product to life. For affluent Americans, broccoli fits into everyday concerns about eating right, being healthy, staying in shape, and valuing natural foods. For Maya farmers, this new export crop provides an opportunity to make a little extra money in difficult, often risky circumstances. Unbeknownst to each other, the American consumer and the Maya farmer are bound together in webs of desire and material production.

About the authors

Edward F. Fischer is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies at Vanderbilt University. His publications include Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala (1996), Cultural Logics and Global Economies: Maya Identity in Thought and Practice (2001), and Tecpán Guatemala: A Modern Maya Town in Global and Local Context (2002). Peter Benson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University.

"The authors bring insight and experience to their analysis, ultimately showing that any understanding of the historical and cultural context of export agriculture must indeed dig both wide and deep."

Cultural Geographies

"Broccoli and Desire is written in an honest, engaged, and straightforward manner by good ethnographers; Fischer and Benson are constantly pointing out the contrasts and contradictions in content and tone of informant's testimonies."


"Readers of Broccoli and Desire will find a fresh take on why the Maya of Tecpn, like the so-called 'awkward class' of peasants throughout the glove, partake inthe 'irrational' behavior that is small agriculture."

Journal of Latin American Geography

"Broccoli and Desire tells the story of globalization from the ground up, focusing on the lives of ordinary people—the producers and consumers of a vegetable that many often take for granted. The authors, perceptive, boots-on-the-ground ethnographers, look beyond the usual neoliberal models to show how the local is transformed by global economic forces. Fischer and Benson have produced an excellent text that will be used for a wide range of courses."

—James L. Watson, Harvard University, Editor of Golden Arches East: McDonald's in East Asia (Stanford University Press, 1997)

"For once, here is a well-researched book with an arresting title that actually delivers what it promises: fresh, new, outside-the-box thinking on a region that has been well studied. In Broccoli and Desire, Fischer and Benson use the deceptively simple question, how the Maya want, as a tool to break down globalization and other political-economy issues. In seeking to show why growing broccoli for export is both dangerous and compelling for Maya farmers, the authors have given us a compelling product—a ground-breaking study that is engagingly written and innovative in its conception."

—Matthew Restall, Pennsylvania State University

"The book brings to life the Mayan farmers who hope for a little bit more for their families and their connection to the health-conscious, well-intentioned U.S. consumers trying to keep their bodies going on aprecarious budget. Similar to other works that follow a humble thing like bananas, sugar, or salt, the authors use the seemingly simple vegetable broccoli to reveal inter-American networks of production, consumption,desire, dreams for the future, and the terrifying awareness that all our individual efforts may be for naught."

—Diane Nelson, Duke University