Synopses & Reviews
Nestled in the Himalayan foothills of Northeast India, Darjeeling is synonymous with some of the finest and most expensive tea in the world. It is also home to a violent movement for regional autonomy that, like the tea industry, dates back to the days of colonial rule.
In this nuanced ethnography, Sarah Besky narrates the lives of tea workers in Darjeeling. She explores how notions of fairness, value, and justice shifted with the rise of fair-trade practices and postcolonial separatist politics in the region. This is the first book to explore how fair-trade operates in the context of large-scale plantations.
Readers in a variety of disciplinesanthropology, sociology, geography, environmental studies, and food studieswill gain a critical perspective on how plantation life is changing as Darjeeling struggles to reinvent its signature commodity for twenty-first-century consumers. The Darjeeling Distinction challenges fair-trade policy and practice, exposing how trade initiatives often fail to consider the larger environmental, historical, and sociopolitical forces that shape the lives of the people they intended to support.
"In the clear and evocative writing of Sarah Besky a landscape shaped by tea emerges as the changing terrain where rival ideas of justice are evaluated by the workers whose lives are most directly caught in their implications. Debates over fair trade, notions of terroir, and regional autonomy come together in this painstaking and pathbreaking work that generates terrific insights for anthropological studies of food systems, labor, commodities, and environmental issues from an Indian case of tea industry in the eastern Himalaya." --K. Sivaramakrishnan, Yale University
"Written with beautiful and engaging prose, this book traces three distinct efforts to bring justice and post-colonial modernity to Darjeeling's plantations, showing how the reinforcement of a 'third world agrarian imaginary' fails to confront the violence of plantations themselves. In doing so, The Darjeeling Distinction makes an original and crucial contribution to the growing literature on ethical trade." --Julie Guthman, University of California, Santa Cruz
About the Author
Sarah Besky is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Natural Resources and Environment and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan.
Table of Contents
List of Maps and Figures
Notes on Orthography and Usage
Introduction: Reinventing the Plantation for the Twenty-first Century
Conclusion: Is Something Better Than Nothing?