A post by Cecilie Jakobsgaard, who has been a member of the Ealing Fairtrade Group since the last week of February. She is staying in Ealing to study Fairtrade Boroughs as preparation for her master’s thesis in anthropology in Denmark.
Cake and Fairness: An anthropologists’ first thoughts on the Fairtrade Boroughs
As we say in anthropology I have now been in the “field” for six weeks. In other words I have been a member of Ealing Fairtrade Group for six weeks – and now it’s time for an update on what I am actually doing here.
I have joined Ealing Fairtrade Group in order to study what the Fairtrade Boroughs mean to Fairtrade… How do the volunteers contribute to Fairtrade when it comes to creating value? Mostly they contribute with things related to cake which is always interesting of course – I really think that my choice of subject is fitting as I am known to be a dedicated cake-eater.
(Jo Mortensen from Ealing Council is on the left, Cecile on the right)
But surely there is more to Fairtrade Boroughs than just cake. As part of the annual Fairtrade Fortnight I experienced a lot of different ways to interpret and thus construct Fairtrade as a brand – all the various groups which arranged Fairtrade events during the fortnight all connected different values to the brand.
At the Fairtrade pop-up shop in West Ealing, arranged by the Ealing Fairtrade Group, I met a lot of interesting people at the stalls who all defined Fairtrade in different ways, while selling beautiful things. I myself bought salad cutlery made of bone from one of the stalls. While doing some shopping and trying to help out at the shop, I also learned about Fairtrade; one of the things I learned is that the brand originally is based on Christian values, but I was told by a member of the Ealing Fairtrade Group that “You don’t need to be Christian to be ethical”.
Judith advertising the pop-up shop
There are still Christian based Fairtrade groups and supporters – but as I discovered at the MADE event at the Crepe Shop in Whitechapel there exists a quite large Muslim base as well, who seem to think that supporting Fairtrade is part of being a good Muslim (back to the cake theme: they served amazing crepes!). And of course I have also met quite a few people who think that Fairtrade should not have anything to do with religion at all.
At the Forest Gate Women’s Institute’s combined event for Fairtrade Fortnight and International Women’s Day I found that Fairtrade is by some related to women’s rights. This is a value I re-discovered at the Divine Chocolate pop-up shop, where my “key informant” Jackie and I met two producers of cocoa, who told us that they are working on bringing more women into cocoa farming.
Some relate Fairtrade to politics, and some, again, do not. Quite a few of my informants, the members of the Fairtrade Boroughs who I have talked to, are left wing in their political views and relate this view to Fairtrade in some degree – but at the same time I was told by a liberal Fairtrade volunteer “you don’t need to be a socialist to think that you shouldn’t exploit other people”.
My point with these examples is to show that Fairtrade is a very broad and open brand, that brings a lot of different people together to promote the same good cause, despite contrasting backgrounds. This way Fairtrade represents a lot of contrasting values defined by all the members – joined by a shared love for two things: cake and fairness.
These were some initial thoughts about my project so far, which is still in the beginning phase. I’m here until mid May – so if you feel like talking about Fairtrade and what it means to you, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally: a big thank you to the Ealing Fairtrade Group – and especially Jackie for welcoming me in to the group and her home.
Fairtrade bake sale cakes