Social Justice Narrative and the Mainstreaming of Fair Trade Globalisation within the market or alternative globalisation: assessing the radical hiding in plain view
Fair Trade faces challenges of both growth and placement within or beside a global system that is increasingly dominated by vertically integrated corporate players, certification labelling and the marketing of ethical consumption. Assessment of these challenges for Fair Trade vary depending upon whether the perspective is positively critical (proceed with caution, rebel and recognise appropriation), negatively critical (throw it out), or seeks to increase awareness and volume within the dominant system (assimilate); but from all of these we are mostly left with questions about the way forward, real benefits for producers and legitimacy of narrative. My case study responds to these questions with action. I worked within Trade Aid New Zealand developing a digital storytelling and communication platform (kiosk) that was then rolled out to 29 not-for-profit retail locations nationwide. The kiosk delivers video stories directly from producer partners in the field as well as commentary on apex issues such as trade justice, slavery, environmental justice and basic producer text and imagery based on product scans. This embedded action research offered me the opportunity for deep and practical reflection about the importance of transparency, inclusiveness and cooperation in making trade more fair. In doing so, the project demonstrated the value of impulse learning in an alternative retail space, such as Trade Aid shops, and the potential benefits and value shifts of a social justice narrative focus towards a more radical advocacy. Through the cooperative and iterative approach, the project quickly resonated with more actors. This tuning fork effect shifted the focus of the thesis from a singular consumer focus to include the processes within Alternative Trade Organisations (ATO) like Trade Aid and the relationships between consumer-producer-ATO and the physical place to celebrate education and advocacy as Fair Trade. Like the roots of ATOs, this presents a mission-driven, end-to-end partnership that does include a purchase, but with an unselfish stake in the relationship that does not end with consumer empowerment but instead extends narrative beyond a transient transaction. I find that an alternative globalised trade is alive in the modern ATO and the alternative retail space, but under pressure, and not sustainable without a more radical citizen consumer. The response of producer, ATO and consumer to a platform co-empowering advocates through social justice narrative has been overwhelmingly positive and demonstrates the radical everyday as a way to realise the original version of alternative trade as a challenge to the exploitative practices of hegemonic global capitalism. The thesis argues we must embrace this advocacy so that coupled with hyper-transparency and an unapologetic social justice motivation and narrative, Fair Trade can remain global and fair.
Advisor: Devere, Heather
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Peace and Conflict Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Fair Trade; New Zealand; Social Justice; mainstreaming; trade; fair; Trade Aid; storytelling; not-for-profit retail; narrative
Research Type: Thesis