Fair Trade Rebels

Coffee Production and Struggles for Autonomy in Chiapas

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Lindsay Naylor

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Is fair trade really fair? Who is it for, and who gets to decide? Fair Trade Rebels addresses such questions in a new way by shifting the focus from the abstract concept of fair trade—and whether it is “working”—to the perspectives of small farmers. It examines the everyday experiences of resistance and agricultural practice among the campesinos/as of Chiapas, Mexico, who struggle for dignified livelihoods in self-declared autonomous communities in the highlands, confronting inequalities locally in what is really a global corporate agricultural chain.

Based on extensive fieldwork, Fair Trade Rebels draws on stories from Chiapas that have emerged from the farmers’ interaction with both the fair-trade–certified marketplace and state violence. Here Lindsay Naylor discusses the racialized and historical backdrop of coffee production and rebel autonomy in the highlands, underscores the divergence of movements for fairer trade and the so-called alternative certified market, traces the network of such movements from the highlands and into the United States, and evaluates existing food sovereignty and diverse economic exchanges.

Putting decolonial thinking in conversation with diverse economies theory, Fair Trade Rebels evaluates fair trade not by the measure of its success or failure but through a unique, place-based approach that expands our understanding of the relationship between fair trade, autonomy, and economic development.

Background photo by Elias Sorey on Unsplash

Winner of the 2020 Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award from the American Association of Geographers Political Geography Specialty Group


  • rights
    Portions of chapter 3 were originally published as “Auditing the Subjects of Fair Trade: Coffee, Development, and Surveillance in Highland Chiapas,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35, no. 5 (2017): 816–35, https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775817694031. Portions of chapter 4 were originally published as “Fair Trade Coffee Exchanges and Community Economies,” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 50, no. 5 (2018): 1027–46, https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X18768287.

    Copyright 2019 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota
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    University of Minnesota Press
  • publisher place
    Minneapolis, MN
  • restrictions
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
  • rights holder
    Regents of the University of Minnesota
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