Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steven C. Roach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alison Ormsby, Ph.D.


International environmental policy, Regimes, Social movements, Political organization, Fair trade certification programs


The coffee trade in Chiapas, Mexico is a unique approach of sustainable development and economic integration, demonstrating that local social movements can change behaviors in international trade regimes. The Zapatista community of Chiapas, Mexico, has an impact on the global trade system, where resultant changes begin at the local level. In the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, factors contributing to the Zapatista rebellion have led actors within civil society to form new socio-political organizations capable of changing participation, norms, and economic outcomes during the post-rebellion period (1994 - present). This study explores the dilemmas facing the autonomy of actors in broadening and deepening their roles in the fair trade movement. It argues that innovative practices of fair trade coffee production, originating at the local level in Chiapas from Zapatista reform measures, has a transformative effect on international trade regimes. The Zapatista social movement has aided Mayans and other groups in establishing new linkages where the impacts of fair trade are experienced beyond the local level. Social movement theorists provide an analytical framework necessary to examine these dynamic linkages between civil society, the state, and international trade regimes. However, contemporary Latin American social movement theorists do not seem to have adequately transcended the dualism between civil society and the state. The importance of this study is that it illuminates how, although the state remains the principle actor, these linkages formed by fair trade have important repercussions for the autonomy of indigenous groups in pursuing independent economic relations. Findings illustrate that fair trade is a viable means to socially re-embed international trade relations, attributing new rules, norms, and procedures to trade regimes. Reorganization in the face of state oppression has enabled a shift from anti-globalization tendencies toward an alternative form of economic integration which has become widely legitimized through a three-way dynamic between civil society, the state, and the international community.