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Regimes of Ethical Value? Landscape, Race and Representation in the Canadian Diamond Industry



Abstract:  Canadian diamonds are marketed as “ethical” alternatives to notorious “blood diamonds”. This paper analyzes the specific matrices through which ethical consumption as a discourse is being mobilized to sell diamonds. I argue that consumption operates as a system of social signification in which consuming subjects are positioned as moral subjects. Moreover, I argue that historically accumulated symbolic power, in the form of imagined geographies of benevolent colonialism in the Canadian North versus the exploitation of “dark” Africa, pristine, “white” northern landscapes, modernization via commodity production, and national identity, creates the very field of meaning within which the consuming subject is positioned. The ethicalization of Canadian diamonds also has important normative implications both in terms of the cultural politics of ethical consumption and social and environmental justice in the Canadian North.