Dec 1, 2007
Environment and Planning A
Drawing on ninety-three in-depth interviews conducted with informal workers in Buenos Aires in 2002, this paper examines how the everyday activity of informal work can be understood as a ‘hidden’ space of power and resistance in contemporary urban Argentina. Moving away from an economistic view of informal work, I argue that, while there is no single power relationship experienced by all informal workers, informal work more generally can be understood as a space in which multiple actors struggle over meaning and control through the deployment of diverse forms of power. The results presented here suggest that, while Argentines view informal work as a place of exploitation by employers and subjugation by the state, in some circumstances it can also be understood as a space of resistance, as workers attempt, through informal work, to create spaces hidden from control, to redefine the norms and rules which govern this space, and to transform the conditions of existence established by other actors. In focusing on the political function of informal work, this paper attempts to bring to light the complex relationships of power between the economy, the state, employers, and workers within the context of Argentina's economic and political crisis.