Discussion: "Fair Trade" or Cultural Appropriation?
In recent years, numerous organizations have dedicated themselves to bringing goods from “underdeveloped” parts of the world to the European and North American markets without the intervention of “middle men.”Â In theory, the people who make these goods are no longer exploited and can finally earn enough money to survive, help support community improvements and possibly even prosper.Â Beginning with the Fair Trade Federation, conduct a web search on “Fair Trade” art or craft products and identify several fair trade marketing organizations.Â Include organizations you approve of as well as ones you have concerns about.Â Next, answer the following questions:
Question 1.Â Do you believe local people really do begin to prosper economically through their involvement with these types of organizations, or are these organizations exploiting and commodifying other peoples’ culture to meet the desires of Western consumers?Â Referring to your internet research or personal experience, give concrete examples of how people benefit from these organizations or how they have not. Respond to two other students. Defend your position from those who disagree with you.Â Offer new perspectives and more information with those who share your opinion.
Question 2. When the objects sold are designed specifically for the European or North American markets, do the artisans still maintain cultural integrity, or are they pressured to adapt their own designs to meet the Western consumer’s needs?Â Consider the following:Â If art is changed, is it still marketed as “traditional” or “indigenous” in the West, and is this deceptive?Â What might be the negative effects Fair Trade marketing?Â Who benefits the most from free trade marketing, the artisans or the Western organization? Provide specific examples to support your opinion and explain your point of view. Defend your position from those who disagree with you.Â Offer new perspectives and more information with those who share your opinion.
Image Credit:Â Joe Mabel, [Public Domain] from Wikimedia Commons, “NW Folklife,” 2009.