TitleFrom illegal to organic
NameSen, Debarati (author), Hodgson, Dorothy (chair), Hughes, David (internal member), Ahearn, Laura (internal member), Fernandes, Leela (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Women agricultural laborers--India--Darjeeling,
Darjeeling (India)--Economic conditions,
DescriptionMy dissertation is an ethnographic engagement with the localized effects of emerging global ethical regimes like Fair Trade. It explores the meaning and materiality of Fair Trade as it unfolds among women producers in Darjeeling's tea industry. It looks at how the specifics of agricultural commodity production premised on organic and Fair Trade stipulations can influence the bargaining power of marginalized women producers in formal and informal production settings. Grounded in anthropological theory and methods, this project contributes to recent debates among feminist scholars on issues of work under neoliberal production systems and women's political agency, interdisciplinary research on global alternative trade, south Asian labor ethnographies and scholarship on social justice.
While Fair Trade-organic production is looked upon by its founders, activists, and participating NGOs as an antidote to the problems of corporate globalization, this project investigates such optimism ethnographically by examining whether Fair Trade is indeed effective for marginal producer groups, and if so, under what conditions this is the case. To do so, my dissertation compares how engagement with the Fair Trade movement has influenced the autonomy and livelihoods of two different groups of women working in the Fair Trade organic tea industry in Darjeeling, India--plantation workers and small scale farmers. I found that women tea farmers (independent farmers growing organic tea in their own land) tend to be more politically active than women plantation workers (wage laborers), even though the plantation workers have a long history of labor activism. My in-depth ethnographic research shows that women tea farmers are more effective in connecting their struggles against economic and cultural domination to the goals of the Fair Trade movement. They become more active in community affairs and undertake new business ventures by combating middlemen. In contrast, women plantation workers, despite their prior labor activism, are relatively incapable of mobilizing the Fair Trade movement to their own benefit, in spite of having their own informal networks. Key reasons for the difference include the different institutional structures of collective bargaining, access to resources (land), existing gender ideologies of work, and gendered community histories of political involvement in previous movements.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 261-272)
Noteby Debarati Sen
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.