Accepted paper:

Transnational Maya textile traders at the interstices of formal-informal economy sectors in Guatemala and Mexico

Authors:

Walter Little (University at Albany, SUNY)

Paper short abstract:

Maya textile traders traverse formal and informal economic boundaries as they also cross international boundaries. I explain how these traders conduct business on both sides of this formal-informal divide, as well as describe why they aim to keep the informal from being completely formalized.

Paper long abstract:

Guatemalan Maya textile traders traverse formal and informal economic boundaries as they also cross international boundaries. In this presentation, I explain how these traders conduct business on both sides of this formal-informal divide, as well as describe why they keep the informal from being completely formalized. My discussion of the substantial practices of these traders, as they move between Guatemalan production sites and Mexican urban retail centers, is analyzed through a multi-theoretical framework that articulates Lefebvre's (1996) and Harvey's (2008) positions on rights to cities with Latour's (2005) concept of assemblage in order to think about livelihood practices in urban public spaces. Because these traders cross international boundaries to sell, I apply Roy's (2009) politics of inclusion perspective with Yiftachel's (2009) gray spaces to problematize the spaces -- political and economic -- where they conduct business to illustrate how their commercial practices challenge the formal-informal economic framework. I conclude that, as they conduct business in two countries and work to improve their economic position, Maya traders aim to occupy a flexible in-between space of "extralegality" (Smart and Zerilli 2014). This highlights forms legal and spatial permissiveness (Little 2014) that suggest such flexibility and mobility call for new ways to conceptualize transnational trade as creatively practiced by vendors such as these.

panel P009
Emerging economic futures: the intersections of informality and formality [Anthropology of Economy Network]