On Wednesday, Feb. 3, the geography department hosted Lindsay Naylor as its annual Lanegran Day keynote speaker. Naylor, an assistant professor from the University of Delaware’s department of geography and spatial sciences, gave an hour-long talk about fair trade and the ethics of care from a feminist perspective, drawn primarily from research that she conducted in Chiapas, Mexico.
Naylor’s main area of focus was the Indigenous Mayans’ fight to keep their land. She tied this into her argument that for the idea of “fair trade” to even exist, the marginalization of a group is necessary.
Naylor brought up the relationship between the “consuming north and producing south,” a heavily one-sided relationship that allows one group to be continually exploited through their labor and another group to reap the benefits. She noted that this asymmetrical relationship creates a system that exists specifically to marginalize certain people.
Naylor also brought up the fact that there is a great amount of labor that does not contribute to capitalism but that is just as valuable and worthy of attention. For example, the Indigenous Maya who live in Chiapas cultivate coffee beans on their land, resisting the state’s efforts to expel them from their home.
“They use coffee as one way of reminding people that they still exist,” Naylor explained. According to an Indigenous Maya quoted in Naylor’s work, “Our coffee sells, and it sends a message we are still here.”
Naylor wanted people to use her words as momentum for change. She told her audience that they must counter the deconstruction of marginalized people and their labor by making “cooperative connections”, which can be found outside of the capitalist realm. According to Naylor, people must question what they are used to believing about consumers and producers. She ultimately advocated for everyone to rethink their perceptions of work, output and fair trade.
“It is a feminist call to value labor differently,” Naylor said.