Archive for November, 2010


Where oppor­tun­it­ies for employ­ment in the formal sec­tor are not avail­able, people start their own busi­nesses and carve out space on the road side, beside train lines, in parks and in other pub­lic spaces to trade. This is par­tic­u­larly com­mon in Asia: for example, 72% of work­ers in Indone­sia are employed in the informal sec­tor.

While the informal eco­nomy may provide for many in devel­op­ing nations, the rights of those work­ing in this way are rarely respec­ted, and are often the first to be pushed aside in the name of city devel­op­ment, or as has occured in Jakarta, in order to reclaim green space. Deden Ruk­mana explores the concept of urban inform­al­ity and the rights of those who exist in legal grey areas.

Here another article on street vending, introducing with the interesting question if street vendors deserve urban space. Some might think, what a question – for sure! but in urban planning there is only little space entitled to street vending.

The article refers to the notion of “Urban Informality” developed by Ananya Roy and Nezar AlSayyad and concludes, that street vending has to be considered as an integral part of urban economy.

Very interesting to me is that the publication of this article is on a webpage dedicated to the “Creative Cities” – “Shaping Creative Cities in the UK and East Asia”, this webpage engages in a discussion crossing the Global North and the Global South. More research is needed to evaluate to what the discussions refer and what is regarded as creative for the cities, but might be an interesting source to inform about the kind of transnational discussions.


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Street vending and the Urban Games Events

How the games impact the street vendors, how their economic activities are criminalized, how urban laws are suited against street vendors can be read in this article on indiatalkies.com:

Wiped off streets for CWG, vendors scramble for living

New Delhi, Nov 14 – Seventy-year-old Shanti was a garland seller for 40 years on the streets of Delhi. Now she sits in a cold corner of a shelter for the homeless. She has lost her courage to venture out after being thrown into jail as part of a security drive for the Commonwealth Games (CWG).


And the same urban politics affected street vendors in South Africa as well, when the FIFA was held in the country, see here on euronews.com:

It is hoped that the World Cup will bring economic benefits to host nation South Africa, but local street vendors in Johannesburg won’t be seeing the profits.

They’ve been cleared off the pavements to make way for official FIFA partners – Pinky Pinkoli, for example, has had to give up the central spot she’s held for 26 years.

“It’s unfair, the only people who are going to benefit are those who have got big businesses,” she says, “hawkers wont benefit because they are chasing them”.


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I just read an interesting article on the creativity in struggle of informal workers. The article highlights the many frontiers of struggle, when informal worker fight for their rights and resist against exploitation.


Reinventing resistence: How the mobile workforce is mobilizing

By Sarah Mann

Briarpatch Magazine

November/December 2010

Globalization has propelled neoliberalism across borders, not just as an ideology or system of commerce, but as the primary determinant of the daily realities of where people live, what they eat, how they work, and what rights they enjoy. The deregulation of economies in the service of free trade – be it the reduction or elimination of taxes and tariffs, the weakening of employment and environmental standards, or the privatization and outsourcing of social services – continues to displace and disenfranchise people across the globe. Moreover, the perennial competition to attract capital has pushed employers to divest themselves of accountability for the rights and needs of their workers, creating an increasingly insecure and exploitable workforce in the service of business elites.

While precarious work and displacement have never been more widespread, globalization has also connected workers as never before, and they are responding to the next wave of global capitalism with unforeseen innovation and collectivity on many fronts.


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Diego Coletto just published his book, which includes as well extensive research on street vending in Brazil. more information here.

The informal economy did not disappear, nor did it decrease. Despite early predictions of its eventual demise, it has not only grown worldwide, but also emerged in new forms and unexpected places. This book presents some in-depth cases regarding specific informal economic activities in Brazil. Using an ethnographic approach, the Author shows the social and economic processes that allow the informal economy to be reproduced, revealing the complex and heterogeneous relations between the formal and the informal parts of economy. Throughout detailed descriptions of informality in action, the book provides interesting starting-points to investigate the renewed dilemmas of the informal economy and its linkages with globalization processes.

Another book recently published by Berghahn Books made me as well very curious:

RETHINKING THE INFORMAL CITY, Critical Perspectives from Latin America, Edited by Felipe Hernández, Peter Kellett and Lea K. Allen.

Latin American cities have always been characterized by a strong tension between what is vaguely described as their formal and informal dimensions. However, the terms formal and informal refer not only to the physical aspect of cities but also to their entire socio-political fabric. Informal cities and settlements exceed the structures of order, control and homogeneity that one expects to find in a formal city; therefore the contributors to this volume – from such disciplines as architecture, urban planning, anthropology, urban design, cultural and urban studies and sociology – focus on alternative methods of analysis in order to study the phenomenon of urban informality. This book provides a thorough review of the work that is currently being carried out by scholars, practitioners and governmental institutions, in and outside Latin America, on the question of informal cities.

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