Institutional ethnography of the roaster at work in an alternative-trade market for coffee




Dergousoff, Deborah M.

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One of the objectives of my thesis is to argue that regulatory capitalism and international law are problematic forms of power implicated both directly and ideologically in the standardizing practices and regulation of certified fair trade. My work begins by explaining variations in the way fair trade coffee is conceptualized and offered in the market, then moves on to explain how fair trade certification standards link up with other international standards and certification bodies, and finally, describes how standards and certification are used to textually construct social facts. I examine first those places where regulatory capitalism and international law remain embedded and active in fair trade certification practices, then the way standardizing practices work to organize (or disorganize) the relationships of people who work with fair trade coffee. The ethnography consists of interviews with three informally regulated fair trade roasters in the Victoria region. My aim is to identify precisely the points where the standardizing practices of certified fair trade reduce concrete relations of exchange to conceptual notions of fair trade. Identifying these points allows me to examine areas where dominant forms of power remain embedded and active in the concept and realization of certified fair trade coffee, and also how standardizing practices limit the potential of fair trade to transform unjust relations of trade. The question this thesis raises is not whether or how we can make fair trade coffee but rather, how can we focus solutions to unjust trade relations to be politically effective for all involved?



coffee roasting industry, anti-globalization movement