Christine Hippert examines buying food on credit in corner stores in Cabarete, an international tourism destination in the Dominican Republic and a hub for migrant laborers. The voices in this book highlight people’s experiences with food, debt, and survival to reveal emerging social changes related to race, gender, class, and citizenship.
Christine Hippert is professor of anthropology in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Introduction: “Not Even a Grain of Rice:” Living and Working in a Precarious Place
Chapter One: “I’m Not a Racist, But…:” Friction, Anti-Haitianism, and Everyday Intercultural
Relations in Cabarete
Chapter Two : “Everything is Cheaper at the Supermarket, But I Can’t Afford It:” Colmados as a
Total Social Phenomenon
Chapter Three : “Pa’ la Dignidad:” Fiao and the Emergent Moralities of Being Responsible
Chapter Four : “The Door Is Always Open…Until It Isn’t:” The Hidden Labor of Becoming
Conclusion: “Fíame, Por Favor:” Ties that Bind in Cabarete
Not Even a Grain of Rice effectively interweaves the dynamic interaction between moral economy and food provisioning. At the same time Hippert shows that these “emergent moralities” are also evidence that “perpetual indebtedness is not only a middle-class norm” problem (p. 96) and that both colmado owners and customers remain in largely precarious economic situations. Her insightful ethnography should be of interest to scholars of food security, global migration, development and livelihoods, debt and inequality, and cultural anthropology more generally
Not Even a Grain of Rice is exceptionally clear, readable, and beautifully exposes the complex and sometimes contradictory learnings gained from ethnographic research. As Hippert herself mentions, this book would be an excellent fit for an undergraduate audience. Ultimately, it offers critical insights, ethnographic depth, and a generative platform through which to explore how relationships forged through buying food on credit generate a class-based solidarity crucial to the survival of late-neoliberal precarity.
Grounded in rich ethnographic engagement, Hippert reveals the complexities of race and social hierarchies in the context of international tourists and Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic. By focusing on local forms of support and mutual aid around food access, Not Even a Grain of Rice, upends our understanding of race relations in the Dominican Republic, revealing the ways that community members support one another across difference.
With rich ethnographic granularity and sensitivity to the everyday experiences and intercultural tensions that characterize neighborhood life for so many in today’s Dominic Republic, Christine Hippert clearly and convincingly shows how matters of race, nationality, subsistence, privilege, and morality all intersect and find expression in the simple act of food shopping at local colmados (corner stores). Before I even finished reading Not Even a Grain of Rice: Buying Food on Credit in the Dominican Republic, I knew that I would be assigning it in my classes.
Christine Hippert’s beautifully written book uses vivid ethnographic detail to address poverty, class, gender, race, and racism in the Dominican Republic. Focusing on food shopping in the small stores called colmados, it reveals the navigation of relations between Haitians and Dominicans based on the extension of credit called fiao. Their highly complex relations go beyond race and depend on assessments of people’s responsibility in paying debts and helping others. This fascinating book contributes to food studies, the anthropology of race, and Caribbean studies.
Hippert’s Not Even a Grain of Rice is a food related ethnography that shows the precarious relationships that develop to access food based on one’s word as a currency and as a social glue to express social and economic solidarity in the Dominican Republic. This work is timely in addressing how people navigate their race, class, and gender in the wider realms of anti-Blackness where privilege and exclusion truncate the trust built on people’s commitment to buy now and pay later. Throughout the Americas, shop owners have signs that read “hoy no fio y mañana tampoco,” warning consumers their word is just not enough to honor the social contracts that have built community and have kept people alive for generations. This book makes a wonderful contribution to the scholarship on food insecurity, food sovereignty, and the ethnography of everyday life and making do in the Caribbean.
Not Even a Grain of Rice offers readers an in-depth, nuanced perspective about the intricacies of intersectionality and its connection to food, space, and place. Hippert’s work makes seemingly ordinary, invisible aspects of everyday life visible through the examination of intercultural relationships between Dominicans, Haitians, and Dominico-Haitians throughout their interactions at colmados. By interweaving countless examples of how these corner stores function as anchors within daily life, this book interrogates simplistic notions about race, class, gender, economics, and politics by expanding our understanding of their meanings. It makes a stellar contribution, both to, and, beyond the field of food studies.
Christine Hippert’s eloquent storytelling nuanced through rich field notes broadens understandings of food security to include webs of social processes and power involved in buying groceries through the fiao credit system in the tourist town of Cabarate, Dominican Republic. Hippert’s illuminating work aptly pushes the boundaries of food studies by using everyday transactions and interactions in colmados to surface a complicated history of race, class, gender, and citizenship for working-class Haitians and Dominicans.
Not Even a Grain of Rice is a beautifully written and ethnographically rich account of life in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, on the north coast. Hippert offers a refreshing view of relationships that emerge over time between Dominicans and Haitians in the coastal community in the neighborhood colmado. The colmado becomes an important cultural symbol of different interactions and transactions where people often shop with store credit (fiao) and build social relationships and community. While Not Even a Grain of Rice brings into focus the effects of food insecurity, social inequality, and the practices of fiao, the stories throughout the book shed light on the shared humanity in the community built on trust and social relationships.
Not Even a Grain of Rice brings together a considerable amount of empirical data on the important place of colmados—ubiquitous corner stores—in the provisioning strategies of poor and working-class Dominicans in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Situated at the crossroads of migrant labor, tourism, and plural ethnic communities, Hippert’s study sheds light on the microeconomic exchanges that sustain a system of mutual aid between shopkeepers and patrons. Through detailed vignettes, readers are introduced to the quotidian negotiations of in-store credit acquisition, borrowing, and debt—and the moral entanglements these activities inspire—that are central to the enduring viability and cultural significance of these essential grocers at the local level. A welcome contribution to ethnographic studies of food shopping and the microeconomics of household sustainability.
Not Even a Grain of Rice is a fine-grained and compassionate ethnography of the social networks and structures of trust forged through microloans within corner groceries or colmados in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. This study reveals how Dominicans and Haitians are entangled in webs of reciprocity that remain unseen in studies that focus only on speech acts, offering an invaluable corrective to a literature that all too often focuses on urban elite discourse. This compelling and important study deserves a wide readership among those interested in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Caribbean more generally, as well as issues of food insecurity among the working poor.
Not Even a Grain of Rice disentangles race and racism, identity, and practices of reciprocity on the fraught, divided island of Hispaniola. Digging beneath the official anti-Haitianism, Hippert’s rich ethnography of a Dominican town portrays a nuanced, complex understanding of everyday people’s beliefs and practices, which don’t always align.
Not Even a Grain of Rice: Buying Food on Credit in the Dominican Republic is an important contribution to various fields, including Dominican Studies, Caribbean Studies, Food Studies, Haitian Studies. Hippert offers a thoughtful and imminently readable account of how a common practice in the Dominican Republic—comprando fiao, or buying food on credit from small neighborhood colmados (stores)—offers a window into relationships between Dominicans, Dominicans of Haitian Descent, and Haitian (im)migrants in the northern coastal town of Cabarete, a popular ecotourism destination. Hippert argues that the commonplace anti-Haitianist rhetoric, discourses, and beliefs espoused by many Dominicans and their government alike should not be taken at face value. Instead, the equally salient social fact of class-based solidarity between and among the multi-ethnic residents of La Cienaga and Callejón de la Loma is evidenced in the moral economy of the fiao (informal credit) system. Simply stated, despite the surge in and institutionalization of contemporary anti-Haitian rhetoric and practices, Dominican colmaderos routinely label Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent gente responsable (responsible people)—a racialized assessment of trustworthiness upon which the ability to purchase the food necessary for survival hinges. As Hippert ably argues, this case exemplifies the co-existence of anti-Haitian discourses and everyday Dominco-Haitian solidarity practices.