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The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India (California Studies in Food and Culture) Paperback – November 23, 2013
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"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
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In this book Sarah sheds light on the labor practices in post-colonial tea plantations in Darjeeling, as well as three systems that claim to bring justice to disenfranchised workers: Geographical Indication, the Fair Trade movement, and the Gorkhaland movement.
What sets this work apart is Besky's use of flowing prose and vivid first hand descriptions to describe realities that otherwise might have been set down in the faceless statistics of a droll academic paper. She is no slouch in the research department either, presenting a deep and nuanced history of the Nepali/Darjeeling/Gorkha people for the first time that I am aware of in the English language.
As someone who has worked in the industry I concede that there are only a few relatively minor oversimplifications. GI, for instance, from the North American import side, was only ever seen as a marketing ploy. But this is really nothing to quibble with.
Besky has done a wonderful job in exposing the uncomfortable realities of plantation life to consumers of Darjeeling tea round the world. I hope that this bears fruit in meaningful change for laborers who produce some of the world's finest tea.