Oaxacan Mezcal and the Making of a Global Indigenous Commodity (Book project under contract with the University of Texas Press)
My current research explores the sociologically complex field of production, marketing, and connoisseurship surrounding Oaxacan mezcal as it circulates in the global market. Mezcal is a distilled spirit made from agave, the same plant used to produce tequila. However, while tequila has enjoyed vast commercial success at home and abroad throughout the twentieth-century, until the late 1990s mezcal remained a regional drink, produced on a relatively small scale for local consumption—notably by indigenous, rural, and working class Oaxacans—and was virtually unknown outside of Mexico. Oaxacan mezcal is currently undergoing a dramatic transformation into an economically valuable prestige commodity destined for export to other regions of Mexico and around the world. By exploring together global taste-making forces, indigenous agricultural practice, and state policies that construct nationalist chains of value and belonging, this manuscript contributes to the growing literature which focuses on key commodities to unpack the multiple forces which bring them into being.