Everyday Sustainability

Gender Justice and Fair Trade Tea in Darjeeling

By Debarati Sen

Subjects: Anthropology, Rural Sociology, Sociology, India And South Asian Studies, Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series, Praxis: Theory in Action, SUNY Press Open Access
Paperback : 9781438467146, 272 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438467139, 272 pages, November 2017

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Note on Transliteration


1. Locations: Homework and Fieldwork

2. Everyday Marginality of Nepalis in India

3. The Reincarnation of Tea

4. Fair Trade and Women Without History: The Consequences of Transnational Affective Solidarity

5. Ghumāuri: Interstitial Sustainability in India’s Fair Trade−Organic Certified Tea Plantations

6. Fair Trade vs. Swachcha Vyāpār: Ethical Counter-Politics of Women’s Empowerment in a Fair Trade−Certified Small Farmers Cooperative
7. “Will My Daughter Find an Organic Husband?” Domesticating Fair Trade through Cultural Entrepreneurship

8. “Tadpoles in Water” vs. “Police of Our Fields”: Competing Subjectivities, Women’s Political Agency and Fair Trade

Conclusion: Everyday Sustainability


Illuminates the contradictions that emerge within conscious capitalism initiatives that are designed to empower women.


Honorable Mention, 2019 Michelle Z. Rosaldo Prize presented by the Association for Feminist Anthropology
Winner of the 2018 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize presented by the National Women's Studies Association
Winner of the 2018 Global Development Studies Book Award presented by the Global Development Studies Section of the International Studies Association

Everyday Sustainability takes readers to ground zero of market-based sustainability initiatives—Darjeeling, India—where Fair Trade ostensibly promises gender justice to minority Nepali women engaged in organic tea production. These women tea farmers and plantation workers have distinct entrepreneurial strategies and everyday practices of social justice that at times dovetail with and at other times rub against the tenets of the emerging global morality market. The author questions why women beneficiaries of transnational justice-making projects remain skeptical about the potential for economic and social empowerment through Fair Trade while simultaneously seeking to use the movement to give voice to their situated demands for mobility, economic advancement, and community level social justice.

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Debarati Sen is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston, and prior to that was Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University.


"Unique for its foregrounding of women's narratives, this ethnography is a valuable contribution to sustainability studies and an important text for scholars, students, and practitioners studying women's work and sustainable development in South Asia … Everyday Sustainability is compelling and praiseworthy for its vision to push feminist ethnography beyond the reflexive gaze and into the intersections of privilege, caste, and location. " — Pacific Affairs