Ethical food packaging and designed encounters with distant and exotic others

Machin, David and Cobley, Paul ORCID: (2019) Ethical food packaging and designed encounters with distant and exotic others. Semiotica . ISSN 0037-1998 (Accepted/In press)

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There has been criticism of how Fair-Trade products represent workers in remote parts of the world where packaging offers an encounter with distant others which romanticizes and homogenizes them as a pre-modern form of ethnicity. Such workers are shown as always engaged in authentic, simple, honest decontextualized manual labour. And they are depicted as highly appreciative of, and empowered by, the act of ethical shopping. This paper shows that a close social semiotic analysis of Fair-Trade packaging reveals a different set of meanings which sit alongside the decontextualized ones. Designs integrate these workers into more contemporary kinds of modernist, rational, design chic, which communicates its own kind of honesty and authenticity. We consider how this, too, shapes how such consumers encounter distant others and its consequence for the meaning of the act of ethical shopping, where consumers can buy into moral alignment offered by products.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media
Item ID: 27671
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by De Gruyter in Semiotica. The final publication is available at
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Depositing User: Paul Cobley
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2019 14:40
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2019 15:39

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