Close to two decades ago, Whatmore and Thorne (1997) used fair trade coffee to introduce actor-network theory to the political economy of food and what Evans (2000) called the rise of ‘counter-hegemonic globalization’. As well as providing one of the earliest academic descriptions of a fair trade network, they elaborated a ‘topological spatial imagination concerned with tracing points of connection and lines of flow, as opposed to reiterating fixed surfaces and boundaries’ (Whatmore and Thorne 1997, 289; original emphasis). Yet, how do these connections and flows work? And, importantly, how do they do this work as fair trade has moved into the ‘everyday’ supply chains of supermarkets, corner stores and institutions? In this chapter, we analyze the shifting temporal and spatial practices that have given shape to and animate these alternative connections and flows in fair trade’s agro-food networks. The connective practices of fair trade have substantively changed as traditional fair trade products have moved into the commercial mainstream, and new fair trade products, such as wine, have entered the market. Crucially, these connective practices are tactical in nature: they have shifted to grow fair trade markets and bring in new goods, but they also facilitate the practical connections across fair trade commodity chain nodes designed to facilitate the flow of these goods from marginalized producers to better-off consumers.
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