The New Yorker has a brief “talk of the town” piece about an academic studying Starbucks. It caught my eye because as a grad student, doing fieldwork at hospitals in Boston, I spent a lot of down time in Starbucks thinking about just such a project, every time I witnessed two starbucks employees debate the best way to bilk the Mass. welfare system, or discuss how “fair trade” was not revolutionary, etc. Unfortunatley, most of what this particular history professor seems to be doing is simply going to Starbucks, and occasionally counting the number of patrons, or observing the demographic mix–hardly fieldwork.
I like the idea of a Mintz-esque study of the political economic transformation that Starbucks has wrought–to say nothing of their successful introduction of real coffee to the furthest reaches of America–but I guess I’ll have to wait, or do it myself. But even when I was contemplating such a project, I ultimately decided that if one were serious about a corporate anthropology, or an anthropology of corporations, one would proceed directly to Wal-Mart, without passing go, without collecting $200. Where else could one satisfy one’s pleasure in discovering the exotic in 1300 locales in 10 countries?