“Some are more fair than others”: fair trade certification, development, and North–South subjects
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At the same time as fair trade certified products are capturing an increasing market share, a growing number of scholars and practitioners are raising serious questions about who benefits from certification. Through a critique of north–south narratives, this paper draws on contemporary themes in fair trade scholarship to draw out different ways of thinking about fair trade outside of the dichotomous north–south framing. I argue that, through the creation of fair trade subjects of the “global north” and “global south,” certification has normalized and naturalized dichotomous power relations. The primary concern of this paper is to demonstrate the problems with situating certification and scholarship in the north–south binary and to push examination toward a more nuanced analysis of how certification and development are shaped in-place. This intervention is important for assisting with stepping away from long-standing debates regarding the effectiveness of certification, and additionally in contributing to critical thinking on economic development more broadly.
KeywordsFair trade Development Global north–south Certification Geopolitics
I am thankful to Alec Murphy and Lise Nelson for their helpful comments on drafts of this paper. Thank you as well to Joe Jasper for discussing, at length, the common themes of fair trade. I am also grateful to Brad Simantel for drafting Fig. 1.
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