Fair trade and community supported agriculture (CSA) as middle class social movements in Hong Kong

Van Wijk, Sheilla (2014). Fair trade and community supported agriculture (CSA) as middle class social movements in Hong Kong PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2014.394

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Author Van Wijk, Sheilla
Thesis Title Fair trade and community supported agriculture (CSA) as middle class social movements in Hong Kong
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2014.394
Publication date 2014-10-30
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor Lynda Cheshire
David Ip
Total pages 302
Language eng
Subjects 1608 Sociology
Formatted abstract
This thesis seeks to understand why certain segments of the Hong Kong middle class are choosing to mobilize around issues of Fair Trade and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It utilizes a case study approach to address the key research question as to why these social phenomena have arisen in such an unlikely setting as Hong Kong, one of the world’s most capitalist and urbanized societies. In addition, the thesis interrogates whether the alternative food networks (AFNs) of Fair Trade and CSA can be considered new social movements (NSMs) by examining the extent to which they engage with NSM theories. It explores how issues of identity, ideology and morality intersect and influence the lifestyles and practices of the participants and suggests that these members of the middle class may, indeed, constitute a new social category in Hong Kong.

The research was conducted in Hong Kong over a period of four months using a qualitative case study approach. The participants’ values, beliefs and attitudes to the environment, sustainable development and global trade are explored through twenty four in-depths interviews. Documentary evidence and participant observation of farmers’ markets, Fair Trade events and Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) schemes provided additional and complementary sources of data needed to address the research questions.

This study shows that the participants are actively involved in constructing ideologies of resistance that are broadly aimed at opposing the process of neoliberal globalization. This manifested through the building of the moral economies of Fair Trade and CSA, which became expressions of the participants’ specific values and beliefs concerning food production, consumption and distribution. The thesis argues that a primary motivation behind the participants’ active engagement with Fair Trade and CSA is to forge new social identities as a means of altering their ascribed social class. Drawing on the theoretical work of Bourdieu (1984), it is argued that through habitus transformation (as opposed to social reproduction), the middle class participants are attempting to re-position themselves as a new fraction of the middle class. It is suggested that the participants’ involvement in Fair Trade represents a social and cultural struggle between competing fractions of the Hong Kong middle class to define what is best for society and the world generally.

The thesis is important for a number of reasons. First, it addresses the paucity of research on the study of social movements in Hong Kong and aims to add to the growing body of knowledge on NSMs emerging in the postcolonial era. Second, the thesis demonstrates that class has utility as an explanatory variable in social movement analysis. Third, the findings of this case study appear to refute the common perception of the Hong Kong middle class as politically passive and uninterested in organizing and staging movements that are less concerned with monetary gains.
Keyword Fair trade
Community supported agriculture
Social movements
Middle class
Hong Kong

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Thu, 23 Oct 2014, 06:45:55 EST by Ms Sheilla Van Wijk on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service