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Accepted Paper:

"What if the entire informal sector went on strike?" Street vendors and collective action in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania  
Michaela Collord (University of Nottingham)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents a three-part analytical framework to understand whether and how precarious urban workers, specifically street vendors, can pursue collective action to mitigate power imbalances within the informal economy. It applies this analysis to a study of street traders in Dar es Salaam.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aligns with a literature interested in whether and how worker collective action can mitigate power imbalances within the informal economy, power imbalances that then perpetuate unequal patterns of accumulation and dispossession. The paper sets out an analytical framework comprising three parts. First, it presents an analysis of class within the informal economy, specifically as it relates to precarious street vendors. This involves identifying a focus of contestation—for instance, access to the street—and the social relations that define a related class antagonism—for instance, between vendors who depend on access to the street and larger retailers plus allied state officials with an interest in evicting them. Second, the paper engages with the conditions whereby this class antagonism can inform street vendors' collective identity formation and organising. It focuses on co-operative organising, one, as a basis for addressing shared welfare concerns but also, two, as a platform for more overtly politicised and disruptive interventions. Finally, the paper stresses the importance of integrating a study of bottom-up collective action with an analysis of urban elite power structures. This political analysis helps explain whether street vendors can gain leverage and achieve a degree of success through their collective action. After this theoretical discussion, the paper applies its three-part analytical framework to a study of street vendors in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. It examines the recent shift from a regime of (relative) protection under President John Magufuli to an unprecedented mass eviction under his successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Panel P02b
Informality: a way of surviving the post-pandemic city?