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Friday, August 31, 2007

Irish Pub

NPR's The World aired this segment on the world wide appeal of Guinness beer, and credited The Irish Pub Company with the brew's globalized success. Boasting 1,800 bars in more than 50 countries, the company markets the "Irish brand" to consumers from Nigeria to Dubai.


In classic NPR style, the spot congratulates the corporation for their remarkable ability to sell tasteless, high calorie beer to brown people all over the world.

The story piqued my interest because I spent a week in Santa Cruz, Bolivia this summer at a conference, and one of our Bolivian hosts took us to an Irish Pub for drinks. I saw particularly weirded out by this manifestation of culinary imperialism, because Santa Cruz seemed to have a pretty thriving local economy. Aside from a KFC and a Subway, most of the restaurants were owned and run by Bolivians.

The Irish Pub phenomena is disturbing to me a number of levels. Food and drink are fundamental elements of culture, and the proliferation of western food chains in the global south is one example of globalization causing systematic cultural genocide. Furthermore, if I was Irish, I'd be pretty f-en sick of my heritage sold as a "brand". Riverdance was bad enough, but decorating trashy bars with knick-knacks that were probably harvested from Irish yard sales, slapping a logo on it and calling it "authentically Irish" must be terribly insulting.

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