Owners of the Sidewalk

Security and Survival in the Informal City

Owners of the Sidewalk

Global Insecurities

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 34 illustrations Published: January 2016

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Sociology > Urban Studies

Many of Bolivia's poorest and most vulnerable citizens work as vendors in the Cancha mega-market in the city of Cochabamba, where they must navigate systems of informality and illegality in order to survive. In Owners of the Sidewalk Daniel M. Goldstein examines the ways these systems correlate in the marginal spaces of the Latin American city. Collaborating with the Cancha's legal and permanent stall vendors (fijos) and its illegal and itinerant street and sidewalk vendors (ambulantes), Goldstein shows how the state's deliberate neglect and criminalization of the Cancha's poor—a practice common to neoliberal modern cities—makes the poor exploitable, governable, and consigns them to an insecure existence. Goldstein's collaborative and engaged approach to ethnographic field research also opens up critical questions about what ethical scholarship entails.


"... a cogent and compelling critique of how the move toward neoliberal economic policies has affected the lives of formal (those with fixed stalls) and informal (street) vendors." — Arthur D. Murphy, American Ethnologist

"Weaving the background histories and theoretical discussions throughout the more narrative storytelling presentation, results in a thoughtful ethnography that contributes much to the field of anthropology as well as to the body of literature focused on markets in Latin America."
  — Alana Nicole DeLoge, Bolivian Studies Journal

"By being transparent about his methodology and research experiences, he successfully breaks down conventions associated with academic writing. The result is a highly readable and engaging ethnography that showcases the daily struggles of men and women in the Cancha. . . . This book will be of value to Latin American specialists from multiple disciplines, including history, anthropology, and political science, as well as students seeking an inside look at the promises and pitfalls of ethnographic research in informal spaces." — Nicole L. Pacino, Canadian Journal of History

“Even those without a knowledge background in political, economic, and cultural life in Bolivia can approach this work, which discusses cultural behavior, identity, conflict, political participation, and diverse forms of networking. This research is an impressive starting point for future research.” — Jaroslav Dvorak, Human Rights Review

"Goldstein’s narrative writing style, joined with short chapters and excellent accompanying photographs, make this book accessible to students at all levels. — Kathleen Schroeder, Journal of Latin American Geography

"Goldstein is an anthropologist, but Owners of the Sidewalk will be of interest to scholars and students of urban studies, sociology, economics, and global development. . . . The complex relationship between workers and the state is intriguing, because claims of ownership for the city are made through the fijos and ambulantes’ occupation of public spaces. The Bolivian bureaucracy, meanwhile, maintains an uneven and selective involvement. Goldstein’s ethnography is an important addition to the corpus of knowledge on the informal economy."
  — Jenny Lendrum, International Sociology

"The book is a great read for scholars interested in Latin American cities, in issues of the street, in the informal economy, but also for scholars conducting original ethnographic work in diverse urban settings." — Veronica Crossa, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Goldstein’s book is a must read for all students of informality and politics in cities of the South."
  — Claire Benit-Gbaffou, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

"A strong example of engaged anthropology. . . . This is a lovely ethnography that illuminates important elements of 'informality,' markets, and neoliberalism."
  — Miriam Shakow, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Goldstein makes a splendid analysis of the way in which the different actors in the Cancha market – permanent stall vendors or fijos, itinerant street vendors or ambulantes as well as state officials and private security guards – continuously cross the line between the formal and informal, legal and illegal, albeit in completely different ways, and the various forms of insecurity it brings to the fore." — Griet Steel, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"A quite motivating contribution for those interested in the turbulent urban worlds of the Andes. Cochabamba’s biggest market, its protagonists, dilemmas, and dynamics constitute both a widespread phenomenon and a key component of the collectives of this region." — Juan Javier Rivera Andía, City & Society

“A solid, sincere, and inspiring example of how to connect data to a clear agenda that ties into the subaltern’s world-making projects.” — Lukas Ley, Anthropos

“An excellent study and a wonderful read. . . . Goldstein not only covers most of the important detail of a Latin American informal-sector market but does so in a way that allows one to feel the essence of its dynamism, creativity, and truth.” — Peter M. Ward, Latin American Research Review

"Superbly researched and beautifully executed, Owners of the Sidewalk will be particularly effective at teaching students about methodology and fieldwork as well as collaborative ethnography and its challenges, all while providing a great example of a really well written ethnography. Daniel M. Goldstein's detailed descriptions bring La Cancha and its characters to life, and his successful weaving together of history, method, theory, and the insights of the people he worked with has created a unique and outstanding book that will be welcomed by specialists and generalists alike." — Lynn Stephen, author of We Are the Face of Oaxaca: Testimony and Social Movements

"With great empathy, a keen eye for detail, and a novelist’s sense of drama, Daniel M. Goldstein vividly transports us to the everyday lifeworld of street vendors in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Owners of the Sidewalk sensitively portrays the conflicts and contradictions surrounding the organization of ambulatory and fixed commerce, and does so with more insight than any other book I have encountered. Goldstein’s respect for and rapport with his subjects informs this compelling narrative, revealing how street sellers pursue livelihoods in difficult conditions marked by insecurity, social conflict, gendered and racial divides, as well as a history of state intervention in which regulatory rules are ambiguously enforced." — Diane E. Davis, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism, Harvard University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daniel M. Goldstein is Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, the author of Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City and The Spectacular City: Violence and Performance in Urban Bolivia, and the coeditor of Violent Democracies in Latin America, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prologue  ix

Acknowledgements  xiii

1. The Fire  1

2. Writing, Reality, Truth  10

3. Don Rafo  15

4. The Informal Economy  18

5. Nacho  25

6. The Bolivian Experiment  33

7. Meet the Press 42

8. The Colonial City: Cochabamba, 1574–1900  46

9. Conflicts of Interest  54

10. Decolonizing Ethnographic Research  58

11. A Visit to the Cancha  64

12. The Informal State  74

13. The Modern City: Cochabamba, 1900–1953  80

14. Market Space, Market Time  87

15. Carnaval in the Cancha  95

16. Security and Chaos  102

17. The Informal City: Cochabamba, 1953–2014  108

18. Convenios  117

19. Political Geography  122

20. Fieldwork in a Flash  131

21. Women's Work  139

22. Sovereignty and Security  148

23. Resisting Privatization  154

24. Don Silvio  161

25. Character  167

26. Exploitability  175

27. Market Men  182

28. Webs of Illegality  190

29. Men in Black  194

30. At Home in the Market  200

31. Owners of the Sidewalk  207

32. The Seminar  214

33. March of the Ambulantes  222

34. Complications  230

35. The Archive and the System  235

36. Goodbyes  240

37. Insecurity and Informality  246

Epilogue  252

Notes  257

References  293

Index  313
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6045-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6028-5
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