Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo
Since China’s shift to market socialism, many marginalized by this process work as informal street vendors where they reappropriate public space in order to survive―a practice at odds with urban authorities’ modernizing agenda. In relation to these competing logics concerning public space’s use value versus its exchange value, this dissertation examines the practices, experiences, and agency of informal street vendors working in Sanjingwuwei, an ordinary, yet rapidly gentrifying, neighborhood of Nanchang, capital and largest city of southeastern China’s Jiangxi Province. After describing the growth of an informal economy in modern China and providing a history of street vending, I describe the everyday practices of vendors and their reappropriation of public space in Nanchang and the Sanjingwuwei neighborhood. I then provide the socio-demographic details of Sanjingwuwei’s vendors and use their voices to demonstrate how city image protection, a burgeoning informal sector, and the globalization of urban space bring challenges to their already precarious work in the streets. The dissertation concludes by linking the practices and agency of Nanchang’s vendors into a theoretical discussion concerning the agency of informal street workers. Despite daily attempts by the local state to remove them, this study shows how Nanchang’s street vendors, continue to actively engaging in alternative forms of urban space-making through reappropriating of public space. Therefore, this dissertation shows how vendors challenge the city as a system by downscaling, slowing down, decommodifying, and ultimately, deglobalizing urban space to neighborhood-level through their reappropriation of public space.
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