Global Capitalism and Global Knowledge: The Case of Fair Trade Coffee

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This research examines the knowledge of coffee farmers and global capitalism that is cultivated by the discourse of fair trade coffee in the United States. Building on the author’s ongoing discursive analysis of the packaging and marketing materials of fair trade coffee, this research turns now to the consumers in the United States. Interview and discussion group techniques are employed to engage consumers of fair trade coffee in conversations that are designed to reveal their understanding of the impact of fair trade practices, the lives of coffee farmers, and their overall understanding of how global capitalism functions. The author contends that the discourse of fair trade coffee serves as popular knowledge of global capitalism, and argues that this discourse of ethical consumption plays a key role in the rearticulation of the relations of global capitalist production in everyday lives of coffee consumers in the United States. Since analysis of the packaging and marketing materials of fair trade coffee has revealed racial, cultural, and extension of colonial ideologies, the researcher will pay particular attention to how these themes manifest in consumers’ knowledge.


Keywords: Culture, Race, Consumption, Global Capitalism, Knowledge, Ethical Capitalism
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Nicki Lisa Cole

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of California
Santa Barbara, CA, USA

My areas of interest include knowledge formation, culture, race, global capitalism, and consumption in the United States.

Ref: I08P0094