Sentiment, solidarity, and trade marketing: intersections of informality and formality at urban marketplaces in Bolivia
Juliane Müller (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich)
Paper short abstract:
This paper looks at two intersections of informality and formality at urban marketplaces in Bolivia: the performance of emotion and affect between traders, merchants and global brands, and economic formalization of popular business through the adoption of corporate practices.
Paper long abstract:
A plurality of non-state actors are involved in the distribution of consumer electronics to the Bolivian market: East Asian Multinational Corporations (MNCs), international re-sellers, migrant entrepreneurs, and Bolivian popular traders. MNCs acknowledge undeclared goods, and closely interact and cooperate with traders in situations of "semiformality" (Cross 1998); the traders achieve new legitimacy through business with Samsung and alike. They become subjects of corporate "chain management" and trade marketing, yet, global brands also need to adapt to local ways of doing business. They get involved in "commercial circuits" (Zelizer 2011) in which solidarity and sentiment prevail amid competition and rationality. My presentation will explore the intersections of informality and formality as related to two emerging phenomena: first, the performance of emotion and affect between economic actors of different scale, social and national background that turn commodity chains into commercial circuits, second, the "economic" formalization of popular business through the adoption of novel devices and the imitation of official business standards. I argue that both processes, corporate engagement with the messy world of intimate social relations and the rise of semiformal, "upscaled" traders and merchants, are key aspect of our economic futures in a less Euro-centric, yet no less entrepreneurial global economy. The analysis is based on fieldwork at two wholesale and retail marketplaces in La Paz (Bolivia), and the free trade zone of the Pacific port city Iquique (Chile).
Emerging economic futures: the intersections of informality and formality [Anthropology of Economy Network]