Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City.

Author:Sierra, Luis M.
Position::LATIN AMERICA - Book review
 
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Goldstein, Daniel M. Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Daniel Goldsteins ethnography, Owners of the Sidewalk, examines security and economic survival in Cochabamba, Bolivia's markets. Goldstein analyzes the role of the state in creating the informal economy and the place and space of informal marketers in contemporary Bolivia, especially the role of the fixed-post vendors (fijos) and the ambulant vendors (ambulantes) in the Cancha Market. Historically, the Cancha was a marginal area that eventually became the city's most important and popular market. As the twentieth century became the twenty-first, the market also became the site of increasing personal insecurity and danger for vendors and customers alike. It is in this context that Goldstein examines the role of the state in creating and perpetuating issues of security and insecurity for market vendors. The author's methodological and theoretical interventions make this work essential reading for social scientists, anthropologists, historians, and other scholars interested in urbanization, marketing, social and political power dynamics, and the confluence of the formal and informal economies.

Goldstein shows that state practices help create insecurity, which is not only a matter of personal safety, but also a question of economic marginality. The double meanings of insecurity become fruitful lines of inquiry into the lives of market vendors. Personal insecurity and economic insecurity, Goldstein convincingly argues, are the collateral damage of the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s. These reforms imposed by the World Bank and IMF in exchange for debt restructuring were supposed to ameliorate the severe inflation and economic stagnation of the Bolivian economy. In this restructuring, the Bolivian state privatized a wide range of state-owned enterprises, devalued the currency, and withdrew price controls and agricultural subsidies. In Latin America's poorest nation, structural adjustment meant declining real wages, increased prices for basic foodstuffs, privatized utilities, and the withdrawal of state investment in basic services. In this context, the Cochabamba municipality, for instance, initially required informal payments for the right to sell in the Cancha Market. As the vendors in the Cancha improved the market through their own efforts, the municipality saw this as an opportunity to extract more revenue through...

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