An(other) world is already existing and present across place. Capitalist-style economic development occurs within and alongside multiple ways of knowing and creating ‘livable worlds.’ Moreover, as part of the multiple ontologies and epistemologies of what it means to live well together, people practice various forms of economic exchanges. In this paper, I examine how the performance of solidarity in the exchange of coffee assists with rethinking development and what it means to build dignified livelihoods and livable worlds.
Fair trade certified exchanges are often cast as an ethical purchasing choice compared to those conducted as part of free trade. Producers are cast as members of marginalized communities who can ‘lift themselves out of poverty’ by producing for the certified market. Third-party certifiers claim that consumers can empower producers, reduce poverty, and improve communities through their purchases. Here, fair trade exchanges may be read as a site of ethical encounter.
Fair trade certification is a mechanism used by coffee cooperatives to assist farmers with accessing cash income and securing a better price for their product. Third-party certifiers regulate the fair trade label, which is tied not only to price, but also to standards for production and development. In this paper I examine these standards as they are deployed in self-declared autonomous communities in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.
Despite the shortened commodity chain created for coffee through fair trade, there still exist a number of actors within certified commodity exchange. This chain is populated by disproportionately engaged actors, from a consumer looking for the certification seal, to coffee roasters working directly with coffee producing cooperatives, to producers striving to keep up with the standards for certification.
Is fair trade really fair? Who is it for, and who gets to decide? Fair Trade Rebels addresses such questions by shifting the focus from the abstract concept of fair trade--and whether it is "working"--to the perspectives of small farmers. It examines the everyday experiences of resistance and agricultural practice among the campesinos/as of Chiapas, Mexico, who struggle for dignified livelihoods in self-declared autonomous communities in the highlands, confronting inequalities locally while participating in a global corporate agricultural chain.