Scholar Series: Dr. Kristy Leissle, Author of Cocoa

Description: Dr. Kristy Leissle is a scholar of cocoa and chocolate. Since 2004, her work has investigated the politics, economics, and cultures of these industries, focusing on West African political economy and trade, the US craft market, and the complex meanings produced and consumed through chocolate marketing and advertising. Her recent book, Cocoa (Cambridge: Polity, 2018) explores cocoa geopolitics and personal politics, and was #3 on Food Tank’s 2018 Fall Reading List.

Dr. Leissle is Affiliate Faculty in African Studies at the University of Washington; Research Associate for the development through trade organization Twin & Twin Trading; and Cultural Specialist for National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions. She lives in Accra, Ghana, where she is currently researching for her next book on cocoa value addition across sub-Saharan Africa.

What is the Well Tempered Scholar Series?
This first episode with Dr. Leissle and future editions of the podcast in coming months will focus on interviews with academics that hold a relationship to cocoa and/or chocolate in their research and professions.

Dr. Kristy Leissle (Doctor Chocolate). Photo credit: Karolina Webb

Dr. Kristy Leissle (Doctor Chocolate). Photo credit: Karolina Webb

”For me, the way I make sense of it, is the way I make sense of many things…where does the power lie?” - Dr. Kristy Leissle

Episode themes:
- Dr. Leissle’s experience of witnessing realities of Ghana then and now
- Thoughts on LBCs Licensed Buying Companies, new projects, funding cycles
- Growth and boom of Ghanaian cocoa to become largest producer in the world (a position now held by Ivory Coast)
- The tenacity of cocoa in the country — price falls and historical responses
- When Africa is central to industry discussions; what is said and who benefits
- Truths of rural farmer livelihood, and letting someone else’s voice speak through you
- Under-discussed and underfunded; topics (particularly at conferences) lacking complexity, such as sanitation and menstruation in cocoa growing regions
- Gifting when visiting communities - what would a farming family or community appreciate and need?
- Racism, reductionism, intersectionality in cocoa; its connection to politics, economics, class, and business as usual
- Who’s on stage and who can relinquish the microphone? How can one be an ally through action?
”De-experting” as methodology in her work and throughout her career

Cocoa (Cambridge: Polity, 2018) by Dr. Kristy Leissle

Cocoa (Cambridge: Polity, 2018) by Dr. Kristy Leissle

Lauren WKND