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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Comercio Justo and Justice: An Examination of Fair Trade and its Effect on Indigenous Bolivian Knitters
by Stenn, Tamara L., D.A., Franklin Pierce University, 2011, 331; 3522771
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines Fair Trade and its effect on the experiences of Bolivian women knitters within the context of justice as theorized by Amartya Sen.

Sen's theory of justice revolved around three arguments: justice needed to be broadly understood - encompassing conflicting ideas and experiences; expanding capabilities and opportunities brought greater freedom and more justice; and public reasoning and democracy smoothed out justice's inconsistencies enabling it to be more fully realized.

Fair Trade is held up by four pillars: institutions; producers; consumers; and governments/policy. US and European Fair Trade institutions set the rules and impetus for Fair Trade to take place. Fair Trade producers create goods in accordance to Fair Trade guidelines. Consumers purchase these goods. Governments, policy, and democracy support the space in which this trade is experienced.

Knitters' own understanding of Fair Trade was captured through field research and ethnographic study. Research tools such as the Talking Stick and Participatory Rural Appraisal were engaged to enable knitters to guide and define the study. The researcher's 15 years of experience in Fair Trade knitting in Bolivia brought a deep knowledge of the people and customs.

The study found that Fair Trade increased justice for the knitters, to a degree. Women reported positive economic outcomes, growth in self-esteem and leadership skills, and pride in new skills learned. They were challenged by inconsistent orders; stress from deadlines coupled with family responsibilities; and physical ailments - eye strain, repetitive motion injuries, and respiratory ailments - from knitting long hours at home.

This study found, through its ethnographic methods, that by taking the time to listen to producers, the negative effects of Fair Trade could be better understood and perhaps made more positive. Aligned with to Sen's theory of justice, the researcher found that more engagement by all parties would make Fair Trade more just. This work was significant in that it creates a new understanding of justice and trade and enables women's voices to be heard.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lacey, James W., Nepton, Carol N.
Commitee: Abel, Richard M.
School: Franklin Pierce University
Department: Leadership
School Location: United States -- New Hampshire
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Economics, Sustainability
Keywords: Bolivia, Fair trade, Indigenous knowledge, Interdisciplinary studies, Justice, Knitters, Leadership, Women
Publication Number: 3522771
ISBN: 978-1-267-55099-6
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