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      The Journal of Fair Trade is calling for papers to curate a Special Edition. 

      1 June 2024 Call for Papers Volume 6 Issue 2 deadline.

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      Fair Trade and distant production: the normalisation of the North in book publishing



            This article seeks to articulate some of the major theoretical difficulties raised by associating book publishing with Fair Trade, building on the concept of the ‘distant producer’ as critiqued by both Frank Trentmann and Matthias Zick Varul. Where these scholars examine the framing of the Fair Trade producer as always being based in the global South, this article explores an instance of a ‘distant Northern producer’ of sorts, with particular reference to the publishing of ‘francophone African literature’. The dominance of Northern publishers in this field creates a complex series of ‘normalisations of the North’, in which Paris is normalised as the centre of cultural production; the French language is normalised as the dominant language of culture; and non-print literatures are marginalised in global cultural production. Specific issues concerning intellectual production and property then may be seen as sitting uneasily alongside traditional models and perceptions of Fair Trade.


            Author and article information

            Journal of Fair Trade
            Pluto Journals
            1 June 2020
            : 2
            : 1 ( doiID: 10.13169/jfairtrade.2.issue-1 )
            : 13-21
            © 2020 Pluto Journals

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            Education,Agriculture,Social & Behavioral Sciences,History,Economics
            francophone African literature,International Alliance of Independent Publishers,livre équitable


            1. See for example Eagle L. and Dahl S. (2005). Ethical issues in marketing relationships. In L. Eagle and S. Dahl (Eds). Marketing Ethics and Society (pp. 75-99, p. 84). London: Sage; and Nicholls A. and Opal, S. (2005). Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption (pp. 19-24). London: Sage.

            2. The short presentation of the Alliance's definition of the ‘Fair Trade Book’ in English, French and Spanish is available on their website: www.alliance-editeurs.org, along with pdf copies of slightly longer statements on their conception of this term. Useful publications on the Alliance's work include Luc Pinhas' Éditer dans l'espace francophone (Paris: Alliance des éditeurs indépendants, 2005), the collective Des paroles et des actes pour la bibliodiversité (Paris: Alliance des éditeurs indépendants, 2006), and their journal Bibliodiversity.

            3. It is also important to note at this stage that the Alliance is by no means the first or only organisation to represent a network of publishers, in the global South or elsewhere. Hans Zell, a seminal source on publishing and book development in Africa, provides an impressive list of ‘supportive’ organisations on his website: http://www.hanszell.co.uk/links.htm. The range of national and international associations that pre-date the Alliance, and the intensity of their activity, are well known to actors in the field.

            4. Trentmann, F. (2007). Before ‘fair trade’: Empire, free trade, and the moral economies of food in the modern world. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(1079-1102), p. 1080; Varul, M.Z. (2008). Consuming the Campesino. Cultural Studies 22.5 654-679, p. 661.

            5. Trentmann, p. 1080.

            6. Trentmann, pp. 1082-1087.

            7. Trenmann, p. 1086.

            8. Varul, p. 659 and infra.

            9. Varul, p. 661.

            10. Trentmann, p. 1081.

            11. Trentmann, p. 1098.

            12. Trentmann, p. 1081, p. 1086.

            13. Varul, p. 667, p. 668.

            14. Nicholls, A. and Opal, C. (2005). Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption. London: Sage (p. 24). Their discussion of the difficulty in finding reliable ways to certify fair trade (pp. 127-150) also raises complex questions about the applicability of such industry standards to aesthetic and artistic work.

            15. Greco, A.N., Rodríguez, C.E. and Wharton, R.M. (2007). The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century (p. 29). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

            16. The seminal text on the position of translators is Venuti, L. (1995). The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation. London: Routledge.

            17. Gassama, M. (1978). Kuma : Interrogation sur la littérature nègre de langue française (p. 19). Dakar-Abidjan: NEA.

            18. On the history of East African educational publishers see, for example, Chakava, H. (1988). A Decade of Publishing in Kenya. 1977-1987. One Man's Involvement. In African Book Publishing Record, 4.14, 235-241; and Chakava, H. (1996). Publishing in Africa - One Man's Perspective, Bellagio Studies in Publishing, 6. Cambridge, MA: Bellagio Publishing Network and Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers. Kamau, K. and Mitambo, K. (Eds) (2016). The festschrift Coming of Age: Strides in African Publishing. Essays in Honour of Dr. Henry Chakava at 70. (Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers) also contains many useful essays on more contemporary issues in publishing in Kenya and elsewhere. On the consequences of the rapid French withdrawal from Guinea in 1958, see Diallo, A.M. (1995). La Guinée et la Francophonie. In L'Éducateur 15-16 (1993), 36-38; and Kaba, L. (1995). Lettre à un ami sur la politique et le bon usage du pouvoir. Paris: Présence Africaine (pp. 65-69).

            19. Stiglitz, J.E. and Charlton, A. (2005). Fair Trade for All: How Trade can Promote Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press (p. 43).

            20. Pinhas, L. (2005). Éditer dans l'espace francophone. Paris: Alliance des éditeurs indépendants (p. 74).

            21. See, for example, Arlindo dos Santos, J. (2006). L'accès au livre et à la lecture : le cas de l'Angola. In Des Paroles et des actes pour la bibliodiversité. Paris: Alliance des éditeurs indépendants (pp. 85-91); Sylla, O. (2007). Le Livre en Côte d'Ivoire. Paris: L'Harmattan (pp. 19-22; pp. 79-88).

            22. Leguéré, J.-P. (2003). Approvisionnement en livres scolaires : vers plus de transparence. Afrique francophone. Paris: UNESCO (p. 22).

            23. Samba, M. (2018). L'édition au service de la culture, de la formation, de la recherche et du développement durable en Afrique : Plaidoyer pour une véritable formation des éditeurs africains. In M. Samba (Ed.) Actes du Colloque International à l'occasion de la célébration du Cinquantenaire de l'EBAD. Les sciences de l'information documentaire au service de la recherche, de la formation, de l'intégration et du développement durable (pp. 193-200; p. 195). Dakar: Editions de l'EBAD.

            24. Kloeckner, H. (2003). À quand une édition scolaire africaine ? Africultures 57, pp. 71-85, p. 71.

            25. This major book fair and forum for discussions of publishing, which rivals the Frankfurt Book Fair and prides itself on the numbers of international participants, was renamed simply ‘Livre Paris’ in 2016.

            26. Reboul, A. and Thierry, R. (2013). 33e Salon du livre de Paris: l'édition africaine du centre vers les 'marges' (1e partie). Émergences, affirmations, perspectives. Africultures, http://www.africultures.com/php/index.php?nav=article&no=11479.

            27. Ducourneau, C. (2017). La Fabrique des classiques africains. Paris: CNRS Editions.

            28. Varul, p. 661.

            29. Varul, p. 661. Varul does not problematise the phrase ‘Third World’.

            30. See, for example, Huggan, G. (2008). Interdisciplinary Measures: Literature and the Future of Postcolonial Studies. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press (pp. 106-108).

            31. Varul, p. 661.

            32. Achebe, C. (1988). An Image of Africa: racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. Oxford: Heinemann (p. 1).

            33. Trentmann, p. 1081.

            34. Trentmann, p. 1086.

            35. Varul, pp. 662-663; emphasis in the original.

            36. Two very insightful overviews of the range of debates around ‘francophonie’ can be found in Little, R. (2001). World Literature in French; or Is Francophonie frankly phoney? European Review, 9, 421-436; and Milhaud, O. (2006). Post-Francophonie? In EspacesTemps https://www.espacestemps.net/articles/post-francophonie/.

            37. Seck Guèye, A. (2014, August). Seydou Nourou Ndiaye, éditeur et militant des langues africaines. « Nous avons réussi la prouesse d'écouler les 1000 exemplaires du livre de Thuram en moins de deux mois. » Le Témoin Hebdomadaire d'Informations Générales, 1175(7-13), 4.

            38. Ruth Finnegan's classic analysis gives an example of the range of literatures suggested by the term ‘oral literatures’. See Finnegan, R. (1970). Oral Literature in Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press (pp. 1-15 and infra).

            39. See Quinqueton, T. (2007). L'Autre Mondialisation de l'Édition. Esprit, 5, 46-53.

            40. Bianchi, F. (2008). L'interculturel en bibliothèque : état des lieux, problématique, enjeux'. Bulletin des bibliothèques de France, 6, 105-106. Her full report is available here: http://bbf.enssib.fr/consulter/bbf-2008-06-0105-014. Tadjo's bestselling L'Ombre d'Imana. Voyages jusqu'au bout du Rwanda was originally published by Editions Actes Sud (Paris, 2000).

            41. Varul, p. 668.

            42. Trentmann, p. 1097.

            43. There are limits to this line of criticism: while the Alliance has established ‘language networks’ in three European languages that have a colonial history in Africa, there are also networks of publishers working in Arabic and Farsi, each of which has its own unique history and constituency.

            44. See, for example, the back cover of the 2007 launch catalogue of the Alliance's ‘Terres solidaires’ series, available here: https://issuu.com/alliance_des_editeurs/docs/catalogue_terres_solidaires. This collection included Tadjo's L'Ombre d'Imana, cited above.

            45. Hargreaves, A.G. and McKinney, M. (1997). Introduction: The post(-)colonial problematic in contemporary France. In A.G. Hargreaves and M. McKinney (Ed.). Post-colonial Cultures in France (p. 3). London and New York: Routledge.


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