Accepted paper:

Reconfiguring Margins and Touristic Encounters: Secondhand Clothing and Street Vending in the Philippines


B Lynne Milgram (OCAD University)

Paper short abstract:

Street sales of imported used clothing in Baguio City Philippines is expanding as the city promotes this trade to attract tourists. Paradoxically street vending is illegal. Using public advocacy vendors transform their clandestine trade into viable work gaining the citizenship rights they demand.

Paper long abstract:

"They say a trip to Baguio City [Philippines] is not complete without visiting its famous ukay-ukay [used clothing] street markets sprawled around the city…The trade has become one of the city's main tourist attractions…" (Abaño, Baguio Midland Courier 2010:A1). Such newspaper reports testify to the growth of the secondhand clothing trade in the Philippines and to street vendors' establishment of their specific road locations as the destinations for obtaining particular bargain-priced goods. Indeed, consumers' experiences in regular "shopping junkets" organized from Manila to Baguio City - the Philippine hub for retail and wholesale used clothing sales - are repeatedly reported in major Philippine newspapers. That this trade is largely operationalized the city's urban poor given the recent economic recession, and that street vending is, in theory, illegal, does not figure into Baguio City tourism promotions. In this paper, I argue that at the same time that the Baguio City government promotes street market sales of used clothing for tourist consumption, it maintains such used clothing street sales as marginal and sometimes illegal activities by periodically chasing vendors from their sites, blocking vendors' efforts to obtain recognized rights over street space for their trade, and by promoting the thrill of the hunt of hidden treasures to tourists. The resultant paradoxical situation between street vendors and Baguio City officials has lead to ongoing confrontations as vendors seek to resituate their trade from that of clandestine tourist-niche activity to one that enables the citizenship and livelihood rights they demand and warrant.

panel MMM05
Commodifying urban poverty, social exclusion and marginalisation: spatial and social consequences (IUAES Commission on Urban Anthropology)