Consumer/Producer Links in Fair Trade Coffee Networks

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This article analyzes the multifaceted connections linking consumers and producers in expanding North/South Fair Trade coffee networks. I develop a commodity network framework that builds on the commodity chain tradition, integrating insights from cultural studies, actor–network theory, and conventions approaches. This framework illuminates how material and ideological relations are negotiated across production and consumption arenas. In the case of Fair Trade, progressive ideas and practices related to trust, equality, and global responsibility are intertwined with traditional commercial and industrial conventions. As I demonstrate, the negotiation of these divergent conventions shortens the social distance between Fair Trade coffee consumers and producers. I conclude that by re–linking consumers and producers, commodity network analysis provides a robust entré for academic inquiry and engagement in alternative food politics.