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Spring Colloquium 5/1/17

Monday, May 1
12:00 – 1:00 pm
714 PLC

Dan Jaffee
Department of Sociology
Portland State University

Talk Title: Who’s the Fairest of Them All?  Charting the Fractured Landscape of Fair Trade Certification in the U.S.

Abstract: A few years ago, U.S. consumers seeking fairly-traded food products could look for a single product label.  Today, shoppers are confronted by no fewer than four competing fair-trade seals, each backed by a separate third-party certification and based on differing standards.  This fracturing results from longstanding divisions within the U.S. fair trade movement over its relationship with large corporate food firms and the role of agribusiness plantations in fair trade.  This talk draws on content analyses of the standards behind the four main U.S. fair trade labels to explore three questions: (1) How specifically do these certifications differ, and what kinds of economic and labor relations are facilitated by each?; (2) How closely do the standards underlying these seals correspond to the foundational principles of the fair trade movement?; and (3) What does the fracturing of the U.S. fair-trade certification system signify about the dynamics of competition among nonstate standards?  It argues that the current fragmented certification landscape illuminates struggles among competing interest groups over which principles—and which labor and production forms—should be privileged under the banner of fair trade.

Bio: Dan Jaffee is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Portland State University. His research focuses on the effects of economic globalization and neoliberal policies on social and environmental conditions for rural communities, both in the global South (particularly Latin America) and the global North. This broad focus is reflected in his ongoing work on the international fair trade system and the commodification of public goods like drinking water. His research has appeared in his award-winning book, Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival (UC Press, updated edition in 2014) and other scholarly outlets, including Agriculture and Human Values; Organization & Environment; Rural Sociology; Sustainability; and Social Problems. Additional information about Dr. Jaffee’s work can be found here: