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Identity, work, and mobility amongst Bolivian market vendors in El Alto and São Paulo

Ikemura Amaral, Aiko (2019) Identity, work, and mobility amongst Bolivian market vendors in El Alto and São Paulo. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis follows the narratives of Bolivian market women to explore how their real and aspired processes of social and spatial mobility articulate different identities in the intersections of gender, race, and class. The thesis draws on a multi-sited ethnographic research, carried out over a nine-month period between October 2015 and August 2016, at the markets of Kantuta and Coimbra, in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, and La 16, in the city of El Alto, Bolivia. Both in Brazil and in Bolivia, market women are racialised as being ‘indian’ or at least ‘more indian’ than others around them – labels which reproduce the coloniality which underlie these categories. In contexts of precarious and flexible labour conditions, market women are aware that being othered as indigenous might compromise their claims to mobility. Resisting these categorisations, they use various strategies adapted to the particular forms of intersecting exclusion in each context. For instance, putting on a pollera – a type of multi-layered skirt – and becoming a cholita has been a strategy for indigenous women to consolidate their processes of social and spatial mobility both historically and presently. This has been chiefly achieved through commerce, to the extent that the chola identity has been conflated with that of market vendors, as a racially ambiguous, socially mobile woman. Market women in São Paulo do not wear a pollera, but they too rely on ambiguous use of categories to highlight their processes of mobility. As their expectations of social mobility rely on uncertain economic gains, market women in this study reinforce their claim for an urban, dynamic and economically ascending identity by contraposing it to stereotypes that also cast indigenous women as rural, traditional, backwards and poor. I conclude that, while this might individually uphold the success of their socially upwards trajectory, it contributes to reinforce the stereotypes these very women are subjected to daily. These results show how even successful cases of social mobility, in contexts of high inequality, can contradictorily reinforce other processes of stratification along racial, gender and class lines.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Chola; Street markets; Gender and intersectionality; Migration and urbanisation; Race and Indigeneity.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Aiko Ikemura Amaral
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2019 08:23
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2019 08:23
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24404

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