Fairtrade bananas in the Caribbean: Towards a moral economy of recognition

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Wilson, M. ; Jackson, P. (2016)
  • Publisher: Elsevier

Working through a Caribbean case study, this paper examines the networks and associations of Fair Trade bananas as they move both materially and morally from farms in St Vincent and the Grenadines to supermarkets and households in the United Kingdom. In doing so, the paper provides grounded empirical evidence of Fair Trade's moral economy as experienced by banana producers in the Caribbean. The paper follows Nancy Fraser's distinction between ways of framing justice to argue that, in order to transcend its complex postcolonial positionalities, the Fair Trade Foundation needs to include recognition in its moral economy as well as representation and redistribution. The paper compares the moral framework of Fair Trade as an ideology and social movement with the lived experience of certified Fairtrade banana farmers in the Windward Islands who work mostly for, rather than within, an idealized moral economy. The paper also contributes to several recent debates in the agri-food literature exploring the interconnections between production and consumption, the role of materiality in contemporary food networks, the historical and (post)colonial nature of food moralities, and links between political and moral economies of food. Following an outline of recent debates about the moral economies of food and its relation to Fair Trade as a movement, the paper dissects the moral economy of the Fairtrade Foundation, highlighting the historical and geographical, material and symbolic, gendered and generational ways that food producers in the Global South (in this case, banana farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines) may be counterposed to 'responsible' consumers in the Global North. Despite the good intentions of those who promote the Fair Trade movement through the Fairtrade Foundation and the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO), our case study reveals a moral economy of non (or partial) recognition, which has a range of unintended consequences and paradoxical effects.
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