From market to market: (re)situating "informality" and "extralegality" in the retail vegetable trade, Baguio, Philippines
B. Lynne Milgram (OCAD University)
Paper short abstract:
In Baguio, Philippines the city’s market privatization plan means that public marketers, supermarkets and officials are each complicit in variably operationalizing informality and extralegality as interdependent urban organizing logics to preserve power and control in their respective enterprises.
Paper long abstract:
Global South governments have responded to urban growth by embracing a development agenda favoring "modern" constructions (supermarkets) while discouraging what they view as "informal" remnants of trade (marketplaces). In Baguio, Philippines this top-down approach, rather than causing vendors to lose out to new market players, means that public marketers, supermarkets, and city officials each preserve their respective interests by fashioning shifting pastiches of practice that materialize urban spheres of "formal/informal" and "legal/illegal" permissiveness. Using Baguio City Public Market's vegetable trade, I argue that marketers combine mainstream "advocacy" and informal "everyday" politics (Kerkvliet 2009) to protest the city's market privatization initiative. While awaiting decisions on their lawsuits, merchants extend product displays into market aisles and consign goods (wholesaler/retailer) to ambulant vendors creating "grey spaces" of formal/informal and "extralegal" practice (Smart & Zerilli 2014). Frustrated that marketers' court actions have successfully delayed municipal policies, officials have formalized and legalized marketers' infractions by charging rent for their encroachments. Such actions highlight government's complicity in using informality and extralegality as urban organizing logics when these strategies are to their advantage. Simultaneously, marketers informalize commodity transactions by wrapping sales in personalized gestures (sampling) such that consumers co-create an "experience economy" of shopping (Pine and Gilmore 1998). Supermarkets, meanwhile, replicate marketers' "informal" practices by mounting specialty displays in their aisles to capture the public market's chaotic vibrancy. Across class sectors then, Baguio's market players operationalize "informality" and "extralegality" as interdependent strategies to materialize porous spheres that can consolidate power and control more on their own terms.
Emerging economic futures: the intersections of informality and formality [Anthropology of Economy Network]