Chapter 11: Fair trade places
This chapter adopts a phenomenological understanding of ‘place’, as a distinctive coming together of ‘actants’ (humans and their identities, geographical spaces and the material world), thereby imbuing a particular space (more or less bounded or diffuse) with an array of intersubjectively constructed meanings (Agnew 2011). Given that place is therefore socially constructed in the critical realist sense (Danermark et al. 2005), the idea of place employed here explicitly accepts the possibility of multiple interpretations and, therefore, the potential for contestations over meanings and identities. Although the concept of alternative trade, and later fair trade, has been constructed with strong reference to the nature of the practices involved, these have always been embedded in supportive interpretations and senses of place. Fair trade requires the recognition that, far from unfolding within an even plane of empty space, the outcomes of economic interactions are both differentiated by place and contribute to the unique nature thereof. The characteristics of ‘producer countries’ simultaneously differentiate the outcomes of economic activities while also contributing to the very classification of their associated underlying spaces. Building on these imagined geographies, fair trade is therefore part of a longer and broader tradition to structure trade between places in ways that promote increasing levels of both procedural and distributive justice (Trentmann 2007).
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