Fair Trade and Social Justice

Global Ethnographies

320 pages

June, 2010

ISBN: 9780814796214



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Sarah Lyon is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky.

All books by Sarah Lyon

Mark Moberg is Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Alabama. He is the author or co-editor of five books, including Slipping Away: Banana Politics and Fair Trade in the Eastern Caribbean.

All books by Mark Moberg

By 2008, total Fair Trade purchases in the developed world reached nearly $3 billion, a five-fold increase in four years. Consumers pay a “fair price” for Fair Trade items, which are meant to generate greater earnings for family farmers, cover the costs of production, and support socially just and environmentally sound practices. Yet constrained by existing markets and the entities that dominate them, Fair Trade often delivers material improvements for producers that are much more modest than the profound social transformations the movement claims to support.

There has been scant real-world assessment of Fair Trade’s effectiveness. Drawing upon fine-grained anthropological studies of a variety of regions and commodity systems including Darjeeling tea, coffee, crafts, and cut flowers, the chapters in Fair Trade and Social Justice represent the first works to use ethnographic case studies to assess whether the Fair Trade Movement is actually achieving its goals.

Contributors: Julia Smith, Mark Moberg, Catherine Ziegler , Sarah Besky, Sarah M. Lyon, Catherine S. Dolan, Patrick C. Wilson, Faidra Papavasiliou, Molly Doane, Kathy M’Closkey, Jane Henrici


  • “A well-written, accessible, nicely balanced series of ethnographic cases—for those of us hungry to know more about the realities of fair trade on the ground, this volume is a nourishing meal of many courses.”

    —Peggy F. Barlett, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology, Emory University

  • “This outstanding collection not only serves as an accessible introduction to Fair Trade but illuminates the gap between the sunny rhetoric and the actual practice. With ethnographic richness and nuance, the authors complicate our understanding of the market as a means of achieving economic and social justice.”

    —Lisa Markowitz,, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Louisville

  • "This book is a significant contribution to the anthropological case study literature on fair trade that will give yuppies and more redical fair trade consumers, researchers and activists alike something to think about."

    —Ian Hussey, Socialist Studies

  • "Fair Trade and Social Justice is a timely, comprehensive collection of research that will be of great value to anyone interested in trade, international development, or bureaucracy...the concise and well-chosen chapters will work wonderfully in the classroom, answering some well-known questions about the fair trade system, while stimulating future inquiry and debate."

    Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute