1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

In Search of Dignified Work: Moral Economies of Labor in Nicaraguan Fair Trade


  • Reception follows in Brooks Hall Commons 
  • Sponsored by: Global Development Studies

What is the value of work?  What is the value of “dignified work”?  This presentation examines such questions in the case of a small, women’s sewing cooperative in Nicaragua called the Fair Trade Zone.  In 2004, that cooperative became the first worker-owned free trade zone in the world.  By 2007, that same cooperative was staged to become a leading member of the first “Fair Trade Certified” garment production chain in the world under the auspices of Fair Trade USA.  With that prospect, there were even rumors that Whole Foods Market would offer them a multi-million dollar contract to distribute their goods across the U.S.  In 2010, however, the cooperative voted to drop out of the pathbreaking project and decided to go their own way.  The presentation examines the complex political and ethical reasoning behind their decision.  In so doing, I examine work as a gendered and embodied experience, and I suggest it might be better understood through the lens of feminist anthropological theories that embrace non-economic forms of value. Work thus emerges as a meaningful social practice that encodes concepts such as dignity, which in turn may unexpectedly complexity or even reshape the value production chains of which they are a part.

Event Date: 
Friday, 2 October 2015 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Josh Fisher
Speaker Title: 
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Director of Environmental Studies, High Point University Assistant Professor of Anthropology, High Point University