Last week the local press published an entire page on street vending and food trucks in Berlin. Wondering where they are and how they deal with business and regulation Stefan Strauss, the editor, depicts the picture – and an interview with me, as a researcher on street vending in Berlin.

Tacos aus dem Speisewagen

Von Stefan Strauss

Street Food heißt der neueste Trend im mobilen Imbissgeschäft. Kreative Köche verkaufen im Auto exotische Kost. Doch in Berlin gelten strenge Regeln.

Sascha Steinfurth hat es probiert. Mehrmals. Er war beim Grünflächenamt, beim Tiefbauamt, beim Ordnungsamt und bei der Unteren Straßenverkehrsbehörde. Er hat den Mitarbeitern erzählt, er wolle einen Imbisswagen auf die Straße stellen, einen Truck, darin wolle er Tacos verkaufen, mexikanische Maisfladen, gefüllt mit Fleisch, Käse, Gemüse. Vom Taco Truck sprach Sascha Steinfurth. Eine Sachbearbeiterin dachte, er sei ein Klamottenhändler. Takko, so heißt eine Bekleidungskette. „Auf den Ämtern wusste niemand, was ich meine“, sagt er. Nach wochenlangen Versuchen hat es dann doch geklappt.

click for more

and here is a short snippet of the interview with me:

Interview mit Stadtforscherin Noa Ha „In Berlin gilt Straßenhandel als dreckig“

Die Berliner Landschaftsarchitektin Noa Ha beschäftigt sich mit dem Straßenhandel in Metropolen. Sie hat dessen Geschichte und die aktuelle Situation in Berlin und New York erforscht und schreibt darüber ihre Dissertation.

Frau Noa Ha, in den USA, England und in Asien verkaufen Händler frische Gerichte auf der Straße. Warum sieht man so etwas nicht bei uns?

In Berlin wird ganz viel über die ästhetische Ausrichtung einer modernen europäischen Stadt gesprochen, und da gilt der Straßenhandel als nicht modern, sondern als dreckig und unhygienisch. Das gehört hier nicht zum Stadtbild. Die wirtschaftliche Frage, dass sich Leute damit auch ein Einkommen erschaffen, die spielt in Berlin überhaupt keine Rolle.

click for more



click here to see the movie about street vending, vendor power and vendor struggles in New York City.

{FAVEL issues}

The previous posts (PART 1 and PART 2) laid out the context within which the spectacle of the Commonwealth games took place; however, the spectacular nature of evictions as well as the wide spread coercion of unskilled workers employed on CWG sites, presents extreme examples of ‘transient’ modes of existence. The poor of the city were not only disposed off or evicted as the need arose, but also were consumed as labor to rebuild, clean and service the city. Delhi displayed an exhibition of histories, traditions and innovative new futures while also becoming a stage for human rights violations, over-used and under-paid bodies of “footloose”[i] labour couched in conditions of extreme insecurity of everyday life. As the poor were displaced and relocated to peripheral areas of the city, they were simultaneously employed by construction companies to build recreational and residential facilities, urban infrastructure and ‘public’ spaces before…

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The artist Tadeg Pagacar has researched and documented forms of street economy activities and called his collection “street economy archive”.

Informal street hawking, several cities

The Street Economy Archive project examines the influences of parallel economies on social, cultural and political relations as well as their manifestations within the urban everyday life of contemporary cities. We are particularly interested in the influence of these parallel economies on urbanism, public space, street life and the economies of marginalised urban communities.

click here for more information or here for some more

Tadeg, thanks for archiving!

One year ago on January 4th 2011 Mohamed Bouazizi died because he burnt himself in front of the local municipal office of Sidi Bouzid on December 17th 2010. He has worked as a street vendor in a Tunisian City and was bullied on a regular basis by the police. His self-burning and his death has lead to a revolt not only in Tunisia.

See for more coverage about the Tunisian Street Vendor on Al Jazeera:

The tragic life of a street vendor

Al Jazeera travels to the birthplace of Tunisia’s uprising and speaks to Mohamed Bouazizi’s family.

Yasmine Ryan Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 15:00

Today several sources report the killing of two black street vendors on the street while selling. They have been shot in public space, than the killer shot himself to death. see here (in German) and here (on BBC).

This news is coming around when we here in Germany learn about the killings of racist people. And it was a long way that Germany took the pill and was acknowledging that there is a “right-extreme terrorism”, but when several cars where burning in the city the political elite was easy to announce a “terrorism from the left-extreme”.

Why I do refer to this? Because it is considered to be “crazy” what this man has done in Italy, and it seems to be an extremist act of violence of death and murder.

But –

I have been studying the practice of street vending of people of color over the last years, and mostly they have been considered as not “adequate” to a kind of city image, they have been considered as “dangerous” as it is assumed they sell drugs, they have been considered as “dirty” as food from the streets may not be the best food you can have in the city – and so on. Sometimes these prejudices/images/judgments, and I still don’t get the “evidence” of them, are interchangeable in addressing, the persons (of color) and / or the practice of street vending.

I have seen too many street vendors being displaced from inner city to other spots, i have seen too many beautifying development projects in particular targeting street vendors, i have seen too many people being shot because of their color. i have seen too many forms of racism, i have seen to many forms of displacement against street vendors (in particular of color) – that the most disturbing information about the news from Italy is, that the murderer thought he was “right”. He was known for his racist political attitude.

And here another article, already from 1990, well it is in German, but how the local municipality of Florence wants to “regulate” street vendors in the city. (click here: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13499973.html:


Du kaufen

Aus Florenz sollen afrikanische Straßenhändler vertrieben werden – mittels bürokratischer Schikanen.

So, although it seems to be one crazy man shooting these black vendors, there is a long history and a political discourse which has shaped his view on the world and his daily knowledge. Yes, it is shocking what happened. But no, it is not shocking to me that this man thought to be “right”.

Being a Person of Color in public space is not safe to go. As you are suspected of crime, drugs, harassment, poverty, and other deviancies. Too many pictures and prejudices are attached to us.

This is all not new, but the sense of shame has drastically shifted in “good old Europe” – look at Germany, look at Norway, look at Florence – and hereby I refer only to the drastic incidents – and not to the daily forms of exclusion, verbal and non-verbal violence in public space of European Cities.