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The limits of ethicality in international markets: Imported second-hand clothing in India

Norris, KL; (2015) The limits of ethicality in international markets: Imported second-hand clothing in India. Geoforum , 67 pp. 183-193. 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.06.003. Green open access


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Those of us living in the global north are increasingly urged to divert cast-off clothing from the local waste stream and donate it for reuse and recycling. It is argued that this is the right thing to do, since it is environmentally responsible behaviour, conserves resources, and supports charities via collection systems. Second-hand clothing is thereby culturally framed as waste, as a surplus, and as a morally-charged product that has a powerful redemptive capacity for donors, multiple recyclers and secondary consumers. Two-thirds of collected used clothing is commercially exported for reuse in developing countries, and it is as a freely-traded commodity that it is claimed to grow markets and support livelihoods in the global south, rather than a fairly-traded product. As policy-makers in Northern Europe seek to improve sustainable systems of textile reuse and recycling, ethical issues associated with distant destination markets in the global South are beginning to garner attention. Imported used clothing is ubiquitous in India despite highly restrictive tariff barriers, and the Indian market provides a thought-provoking example since in this case the trade is neither fair nor free. The paper evidences the complexity of the market as vertical hierarchies of dealers negotiate and expand the multiple spaces between legal and illegal commodity flows, and formal and informal economies, to build successful businesses. It reflects upon debates in India around democracy, development and neoliberal economics, and suggests that efforts to introduce ethical interventions in end markets will have to negotiate the nexus of power, politics and corruption.

Type: Article
Title: The limits of ethicality in international markets: Imported second-hand clothing in India
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.06.003
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.06.003
Language: English
Additional information: © 2015 The Author. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Second-hand clothing; India; SEZs; Ethicality; Informal markets; Corruption
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1471418
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