Drinking coffee, rehearsing civility, making subjects

10 Jan 2018

This paper explores the role of coffee shops in cultivating youth political subjectivity. It does so through examples of internationally-sponsored processes of state consolidation in South Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We examine how non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have sought to use coffee shops as means through which to cultivate youth citizenship. Reflecting their prominent role in the materialisation of the European public sphere, we examine the significance of civility within these caffeinated spaces, where intimate relations are used as the basis for the consolidation of new political identities. In contrast to those who may dismiss civility as a synonym for political quietism, we argue that the interactions in coffee shops constitute a form of ‘intimacy-geopolitics’, collapsing the rigid binaries between geopolitics and the interactions of individuals in everyday life. Drawing on qualitative data gathered over eighteen months in both countries we explore how coffee shops act as sites of civility where alternative ideas of political identity – and models of society – may be rehearsed.