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Keywords:

  • Ethical consumption;
  • everyday;
  • Fairtrade;
  • Mass Observation;
  • shopping;
  • local

Abstract

Our everyday shopping practices are increasingly marketed as opportunities to ‘make a difference’ via our ethical consumption choices. In response to a growing body of work detailing the ways in which specific alignments of ‘ethics’ and ‘consumption’ are mediated, we explore how ‘ethical’ opportunities such as the consumption of Fairtrade products are recognized, experienced and taken-up in the everyday. The ‘everyday’ is approached here via a specially commissioned Mass Observation directive, a volunteer panel of correspondents in the UK. Our on-going thematic analysis of their autobiographical accounts aims to explore a complex unevenness in the ways ‘ordinary’ people experience and negotiate calls to enact their ethical agency through consumption. Situating ethical consumption, moral obligation and choice in the everyday is, we argue, important if we are to avoid both over-exaggerating the reflexive and self-conscious sensibilities involved in ethical consumption, and, adhering to a reductive understanding of ethical self-expression.