- Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City by Daniel M. Goldstein
Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. xiv + 334 pp. Figures, notes, references, index. $26.95 paper (ISBN 978-0-8223-6045-2).
Daniel m. goldstein is a professor of Anthropology at Rutgers with a distinguished career working in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. He has previously published two books with Duke University Press: The Spectacular City: Violence and Performance in Urban Bolivia (2004), and Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a [End Page 281] Bolivian City (2012). With his level of sustained commitment to Cochabamba, his insights into formal and informal market activities there are worth reading. As a seasoned researcher, his reflections on conducting ethical fieldwork are also worth sharing.
Goldstein’s narrative writing style, joined with short chapters and excellent accompanying photographs, make this book accessible to students at all levels. His writing evokes the feel and smell of a large urban market in what J.K. Gibson-Graham termed the “Majority World” (in “Diverse Economies,” Progress in Human Geography, 2008), making this book useful for students whose interests lie outside of Bolivia. Goldstein includes a number of maps and uses them well as he explains the market and its layout. The market’s pattern can seem chaotic at first to newcomers, but Goldstein’s descriptions depict the retail geography of the market, including the places where tourists, and therefore pickpockets, tend to gather. These sections of this book would make excellent readings for study abroad pre-departure materials.
Using collaborative ethnographic research methods, and writing frankly about their shortcomings, Goldstein explores the complexities of the Cancha market. He emphasizes the role that the municipal government plays in the market and the conflicts between comer-ciantes de puesto fijo (who have fixed market stalls) and comerciantes ambulantes (roving vendors). Goldstein has an excellent eye for the geographic dimensions of these struggles. He elaborates on the many ways that these two types of comerciantes vie with each other for space in the city and are also a part of a wider context in a globalized world economy. He connects local conditions to global phenomena in a concrete and readable manner.
This volume discusses how peri-urban environments and urban public spaces are bought and sold by public officials and commercial syndicates, thus dispelling the notion that these spaces are outside the scope of municipal governments. He argues that the state is “partially but not helpfully” present in these spaces, a phenomenon he calls the “absent presence” (p. 6). In addition, he explains that the apparent chaos of these markets is the result of inconsistent and uneven involvement by the state. For example, rules governing these spaces are vague, changed without notice, and enforced irregularly. These conditions are discriminatory and create insecurity that allow for new forms of authority to emerge. Goldstein contends that the municipal government of Cochabamba profited by allowing the market to develop as a pragmatic way to handle the city’s rapidly growing population and the economic and consumer needs of new arrivals to the city (p.7).
While recognizing Florence Babb’s foundational work on Andean market women (Between Field and Cooking Pot, Texas Press, 1998), this book primarily focuses on the activities of market men. Goldstein argues that men have increasingly entered the economic space of markets in Cochabamba as both merchants in fixed stalls and as ambulantes. He attributes the growing participation of men to the impact of globalization on Bolivia and makes a direct link to Bolivia’s mine closures of the 1980s and the ensuing neoliberal economic restructuring which transformed [End Page 282] Cochabamba and other Bolivian cities. Goldstein quotes one of his informants, a woman ambulante who says, “In the 1980s when I was first here, there were no [men]. Of all the ambulantes, maybe five or six were men. But now, because there is no work, even men [are selling]” (p. 183). This is a compelling story and one that has been under-documented in the contemporary research on globalization. Goldstein interviews a male ambulante...