New Moral Economies in Western Sicily: Fair-trade and Organic Agriculture Between Change and Constraint

Orlando, Giovanni. 2010. New Moral Economies in Western Sicily: Fair-trade and Organic Agriculture Between Change and Constraint. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

ANT_thesis_Orlando_2010.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses the dialectic between the values of capitalism and those of moral economy, and the implications of that dialectic for how people who are engaged in alternative economic practices in Palermo and western Sicily experience their agency. It examines in particular the local commodity network created by people who practised ethical consumption and who worked in fair-trade retail and organic farming. It is based upon fifteen months of fieldwork in the city of Palermo, Sicily’s capital, and its rural province, among predominantly lower-middle-class citizens.

In contrast to abstract views of the market logic as the dominant one in industrialised societies, the people of Palermo and western Sicily drew upon numerous values from outside a capitalist belief system to conceptualise the economy as a moral construct. However, the ways in which they did so were mobile, contested and ambiguous, and varied along the lines of production, exchange and consumption. The thesis explores how notions of value, normativity and motivations to behave ethically in economic processes all had to be negotiated through the demands of daily life. It therefore argues that the economic, political, and cultural constraints faced by people striving to build alternative economies cannot be overlooked, thus interrogating ethnographically the central anthropological issue of how and if economies are embedded in social relations.

The thesis begins with an outline of the three main groups of actors—consumers, fair-traders and farmers—and how they embody the recent historical transformations that have taken place in Sicily. It then looks in detail at each group, analysing how agency is played out both at the symbolic and practical level. The final chapter highlights the commonalities and contradictions shown by this local moral economy.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



29 July 2010

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Feb 2012 16:53

Last Modified:

18 Oct 2022 12:46


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)