‘Change today, choose Fairtrade’: Fairtrade Fortnight and the citizen-consumer

Wheeler, Kathryn (2012). ‘Change today, choose Fairtrade’: Fairtrade Fortnight and the citizen-consumer. Cultural Studies, 26(4) pp. 492–515.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2011.622780


The Fairtrade consumer is widely represented as an individual who intentionally and reflexively consumes Fairtrade goods in order to register their support for the plight of producers in the developing world. This figure is imagined to ‘vote’ with her/his pocket every time they visit the supermarket thus demonstrating their commitment to the Fairtrade trading model. However, this image of the Fairtrade citizen-consumer does not emerge automatically as a response to the increasing availability of Fairtrade goods in the market-place but has to be made by various intermediary actors and organizations. This paper examines how the Fairtrade consumer was constructed and called to action by the Fairtrade Fortnight promotional campaign that occurred within the UK in 2008 and was coordinated by the Fairtrade Foundation. This annual event offers a unique window into the processes and actors involved in the mobilization of the Fairtrade citizen-consumer. Through a close focus on the promotional material distributed to different audiences and the events that occurred during this Fortnight, this paper reveals the contingent and shifting nature of the citizen-consumer identity. In so doing, it highlights how varying degrees of reflexivity and action are demanded of different audiences and how this shapes the way that Fairtrade goods are qualified and distributed in the market.

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