Neoliberalism and Labor Displacement in Panama: Contested Public Space and the Disenfranchisement of Street Vendors examines the simultaneous increase of informal sector employment and decreased access to space for Panamanian street vendors, whose creative ventures in public spaces concretize the face of informality in most of the Global South. Through the lived experiences and voices of street traders surveyed over twelve years of field research, this book portrays the long-lasting saga and resistance actions of informalized vendors dislocated from their traditional selling points in Panama City’s downtown. Amado argues that neoliberal policies, including privatization, labor deregulation, and market-led urban renewal, inflict a double squeeze on working-class Panamanians by reducing opportunities for stable formal sector employment and restricting access increasingly gentrified areas of Panama City historically used for street vending. This book also sheds light on the commoditization and contested nature of public space, discursively contended by competing views of its functions and who has the right to it.
María Luisa Amado is Lincoln Financial Professor of sociology and anthropology at Guilford College.
Part I: Concepts, Patterns, and Theories of Informality
Chapter 1: Conceptualizing and Understanding the Informal Economy
Chapter 2: Informality, Inequality, and Neoliberalism in Panama
Chapter 3: The Double Squeeze of Neoliberal Restructuring: Street(less) Vendors in the Neoliberal City. A Review of the Literature
Part II: Street Vendors in Downtown Panama: Neoliberalism and Labor Displacement
Chapter 4: Street Market Ethnography
Chapter 5: Narratives of Work
Chapter 6: Dislodged and Disowned
Chapter 7: Chronicle of the Conflict
Chapter 8: Neoliberal Hegemony and the Discourse of Embellishment
Chapter 9: The Pandemic and its Aftermath
In this remarkable study, María Luisa Amado relies on twelve years of intensive fieldwork among street vendors in Panama City, Panama. With keen insight and a sure hand, she brings us into their lives, their woes, and their small triumphs at the core of the informal Panamanian economy. Like her earlier book on Mexican immigrants in the Atlanta labor market, this book offers rich descriptive interview materials interpreted through a solid theoretical framework. It documents, at the ground level, protracted struggles over urban space in an era of neoliberal economic reform, gentrification, and expanding tourism. But this is not a book about Panama alone; its themes and analyses are applicable globally, to every urban locale where the informal economy sustains a sizable portion of the population.
A thoughtful and compelling insight into the lives of Panamanian street traders who face multiple layers of socio-spatial exclusion.