Navigating Historical Social Disparity: Representations of Coffee Farmers in Dutch ‘Sustainable’ Coffee Marketing (74090)

Session Information: Media Studies
Session Chair: Nor Eeza Zainal Abidin

Thursday, 21 September 2023 13:40
Session: Session 3
Room: Eixample
Presentation Type:Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 2 (Europe/Madrid)

In the light of the upcoming International Corporate Social Responsibility law (IMVO) and growing attention on Dutch colonial slavery, I examine the intricate dynamics between communicating sustainability in the context of historic social inequity within the coffee industry (Jaffee 2014), specifically when brands picture coffee farmers.

Drawing on cultural studies and post-colonial critiques, this study scrutinizes the alignment between the narratives and the realities of coffee production, with a focus on the political implications of these representations. Thus, the central research question emerges: How do ‘sustainable’ coffee companies navigate the historical social inequities of the coffee trade in their communication imagining coffee farmers?

Through two case studies – new fairchain coffee brand Moyee and ‘big-brand sustainability’ (Dauvergne & Lister 2013) giant Nespresso – it becomes evident that each brand adopts distinct strategies to navigate the challenge of marketing an inherently unjust product as sustainable.

Nespresso’s coffee farmers are usually just seen, not heard (Spivak 2010), inviting the ‘fig leaf marketing’ criticism (Idowu 2013). Moyee’s strategy can be labeled as participatory storytelling, a tradition grown from as response to the humanitarianist crisis (Dogra 2012): involving marginalized communities in the co-creation of communication to represent their own perspectives. However, it is essential to recognize that despite its empowering appearance, Moyee's communication still operates within traditional historical hierarchies between the brand (global North) and the farmers (global South). This raises the critical question of the limitations of 'sustainable' coffee marketing as a tool for addressing social disparity and empowering historically marginalized communities.

Reinier Vriend, Utrecht University, Netherlands

About the Presenter(s)
Reinier Vriend is a Media & Culture scholar, presently at Utrecht University, NL. His speciality is the convergence of digital culture and post-colonial converge, which comprising voluntourism, hucomm, media tourism, and post-colonial media critique.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00