Accepted paper:

Creating (un-)certainties at the crossroads between regulation and improvisation

Authors:

Cecilie Vindal Ødegaard (University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Being concerned with collective action and leadership in the (in-)formalization of outdoor markets in Peru, this paper discusses the precariousness of labor among vendors. At the crossroads between regulation and improvisation, vending emerges as spaces of possibility as well as dispossession.

Paper long abstract:

Being concerned with collective action and leadership in the (in-)formalization of outdoor markets in Peru, this paper discusses the precariousness of labor among market vendors. It seeks to illustrate the ambiguities and uncertainties of labor in a context of neoliberal policy and discourse: a setting in which discourses of formality, legibility and juridical power are both fetishized and expanding. Central questions are: In what ways are (un-)certainties regarding market vending produced and reproduced? How do people deal with economic and legal uncertainties, for instance in cases when semi-legal actors employ 'modes of administration'? By exploring these and related questions, the paper outlines the different and intersecting terms and conditions for vending, such as questions of land title, infrastructure, documentation, and the trading of contraband goods. It discusses the arbitrary effects of official demands and procedures of documentation, and highlights how the negotiation of a market's legal status is socially embedded in ways that diffuse different modes of administration; that of the authorities and of organizational leaders. By exploring how labor is thus negotiated in-between parallel, partly overlapping modes of administration, the paper highlights the relational dynamics of market work. At the crossroads between regulation and improvisation, the value of labor appears as being constantly 'emergent', as labor becomes both the means and ends of vendor's investments, as well as of their opposition to official interference. In discussing these issues, the paper explores how market vending emerges as spaces of possibility as well as dispossession.

panel P30
The uncertain bodily relations of contemporary economic practice