Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
corn, religion, economics, Columbia Exchange
This thesis is a broad study of how corn has influenced the political, social and economic structure of the Americas from the early inception of the first Native American civilizations to the present day. Divided amongst four chapters that aim to explain how corn’s development has changed the power dynamic across North and South America, this thesis depicts how corn has sustained state power and how its development as a commodity has transitioned to empowering corporate interests. The first chapter uses a variety of primary sources such as religious texts and artifacts to illustrate corn’s sacred role as the creator of humanity and participation in religious ceremonies. After European contact, the second chapter analyzes the trading properties of the Columbian Exchange and how corn served as a catalyst for colonization, population growth and the expansion of the slave trade. The next chapter analyzes U.S. census data and secondary sources that explain the establishment of the United States and how corn rapidly became a commodity and byproduct for a multitude of American businesses that were supported through policies and initiatives set up by the U.S. government. The last chapter uses records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and arguments presented by a multitude of corn lobbying firms that support the acquisition of land and expansion in large corporate farms. Through subsidies and technological advancements corporations are able to gain the most profit through their ability to refine corn’s natural state. Policies were instituted by the U.S. government in order to bolster economic return. Today, corn has transitioned from the most important agricultural product with sacred and nourishing properties that aided in the development of societies to a commodity used by corporations to extend their power in politics. This thesis is about that transition.
Thomas, Gizela, "Maize from Sacred to Profane" (2019). Honors Theses. 2361.