The Darjeeling Distinction: Changing Agricultural Practice, Regimes of Value, and Visions of Justice


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation explores the multiple meanings of justice and value for the plantation laborers who produce a global, yet geographically distinct commodity: fair trade, organic Darjeeling tea. In Darjeeling, on the Northeast periphery of India, transnational ethical trade movements, like fair trade, have converged with a colonially derived system of tea production, heated postcolonial discourses about economic and social rights, and local separatist politics. Based on ethnographic research conducted while plucking tea, observing union rallies, and following people and product from the soils of Darjeeling to the auction rooms and archives of Kolkata, this dissertation develops a place-based anthropology of justice, one in which historically rooted notions of environmental and ethnic belonging supersede narratives of economic empowerment.