UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Director's Seminar: Fairtrade Futures: The Ambiguity of Alternative Food Politics

21 March 2019, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm


We are joined by Dr Catherine Dolan, Reader in Anthropology, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS, for a Director's Seminar.

Event Information

Open to





Annelise Andersen


G06 Sir Ambrose Fleming LT
Roberts Building
Gower Street

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In recent years the environmental and social consequences of food production, consumption and exchange have led to a range of ‘sustainability’ initiatives that aim re-moralise global trade, and that hold ever-greater authority over the way our food is produced, marketed and consumed. Within this context, Fairtrade has emerged as one of the most successful expressions of market-based ethics in the food industry. This seminar will outline the trajectory of Fairtrade, from its roots in the social justice concerns of the mid 20th century to its contemporary pride of place on supermarket shelves, detailing how an ‘ethic of detachment’ (Cross 2011) has come to supplant the ethics of care and relationality inherent in Fairtrade’s founding ethos. Drawing on ethnographic studies of Fairtrade food, and bringing together an anthropology of morality with current debates on the governance and politics of food supply chains, the seminar will examine how the principles of relationality are expressed, materialised and ‘transgressed’ through Fairtrade standards, and the risks an ethic of detachment poses to the transformative possibilities of the movement.

The speaker

Catherine Dolan, Oxford Food Governance and Department of Anthropology, SOAS