Unsettling urban marketplace redevelopment in Baguio City, Philippines

Milgram, B. L.

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Milgram, B. L. (2015). Unsettling urban marketplace redevelopment in Baguio City, Philippines. Economic Anthropology, 2(1), 22–41. https://doi-org.ezproxy.gc.cuny.edu/10.1002/sea2.12016

Legality-illegality , Marketplaces , Philippines , Politics Of Resistance , Power , Urban Public Space

Urban public marketplaces in Global South cities host a vibrant mix of retail and wholesale trade. Yet local-to-national governments increasingly promote sanitized and privatized urban spaces by privileging modern retail outlets (malls and supermarkets) and discouraging “traditional” livelihoods (street vending and market stalls). These political decisions dramatically disrupt the public market trade that has provisioned urbanites for decades. To address this issue, this article analyzes how retailers working in the renowned Baguio City Public Market, northern Philippines, sustain their livelihoods given that Baguio City’s first phase of market redevelopment failed to meet their needs (e.g., insufficient store size and banning enterprises). Problematizing legal–illegal work and urban public space use, I argue that public marketers engage everyday and insurgent public space activism to protest their disenfranchisement. Although marketers generally have achieved selected demands, some have benefited more than others. Thus, I suggest that we consider not only marketers’ resistance but also the uneven political landscape within which they work—the power differentials among and between marketers and the state. The extent to which variously positioned marketers can realize livelihood rights highlights the unpredictability of civic engagement and “extralegality” when competing ideologies clash over access to urban public space, legal–illegal practice, and appropriate urban provisioning.

Main finding
The author describes how market vendors practiced extralegal forms of resistance to reclaim a public space that was conducive to their business needs (after their original market was demolished and inadequately redeveloped). The author highlights how the city’s marketers considered their own actions illegal in the sense that they defied a formal policy, but that they should be acceptable since they are not driven by a logic to break national laws - essentially they do what they must in order to survive. Some extralegal practices employed as forms of resistance included: occupation of street spaces in lieu of the less ideal relocation space and engagement in itinerant vending while eluding the police after the market was demolished for redevelopment. The vendors were selective of which aspects of the governments ideology they adopted and the vendors were also able to negotiate compliance and drive some policy decisions that benefitted them.

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted 72 interviews with market store leaseholders as well as interviews with public market administrators and select city officials plus participant observations of Baguio City Public Market Authority meetings.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Economic Transactions
Field Observations
Physical types
Geographic locations