Fair trade certified coffee is now commonly found on the supermarket shelves of the Global North, but the connections between the consumer and producer of fair trade coffee are far from simple. Lindsay Naylor’s book, Fair Trade Rebels: Coffee Production and Struggles for Autonomy in Chiapas (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), examines the contested politics of fair trade coffee production in the indigenous highlands of Mexico. Using theoretical approaches based in diverse economies scholarship and decolonial thinking, Naylor highlights the significance of the multiple, diverse economic practices and relations that campesinos/as use in their struggle to form more dignified livelihoods. While she critiques the narratives of economic development and problematic understandings of solidarity that underpin many fair trade discourses, Naylor’s empirically grounded research produces a nuanced analysis of the possibilities and limitations inherent in contemporary fair trade coffee production. Rather than understanding fair trade as a mechanism to address the failures of free trade, Naylor argues that fair trade should be understood as “fair trade in movement” to account for the dynamic processes involved in making trade more fair and for the multiple and fluid ideas, values and identities that constitute these trading relationships. This understanding creates possibilities for new forms of solidarity and being in common that counter universalizing systems of economic exchange.
Lindsay Naylor (she/her) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography & Spatial Sciences at the University of Delaware in the United States and is the co-facilitator of the Embodiment Lab.