This field report summarizes an international interdisciplinary research project in Saidy, Republic of Sakha, in the Russian Far East. The aim of the research was to study ecological adaptations of communities in northern Sakha, combining methods of anthropology, archaeology, and ecology. Most indigenous communities in this region demonstrate a high level of self-organization—for example, forbidding sales of alcohol and transforming drinking to a hidden activity. These communities are actively engaged in the informal economy where officially unemployed people run informal grocery stores, hunting, and transport enterprises. Local practices are a mixture of Evenki and Sakha culture with emphasis on individualism. People in these communities are not nostalgic about Sovietera collective farms—something that is unusual in Siberia—and see current life as better than that in the Soviet era.
Cross-border Activities and Relationships in the Tornio River Valley
This article concentrates on one particular local cross-border activity carried on after the Second World War. This was a type of smuggling called joppaus in the local dialect, a practice which was enabled by the post-war economic recession and the scarcity of goods from which Finland suffered. This form of unauthorised economy is said to have been responsible for the rapid revival of the region and its inhabitants after the destruction inflicted by the war. The standard of living in the Tornio River Valley has been better than in the north of Finland in general, and this has been explained in part by this type of smuggling. Furthermore, in the last few decades joppaus has become part of the local cultural heritage.
Illegal yet licit purchases of work in contemporary Sweden
Lotta Björklund Larsen
This article explores the tensions between buying and bartering a ser vice in contemporary Sweden by analyzing the acceptable purchase of svart arbete -informal exchanges of work. It is a commonplace phenomenon, but also widely debated, as it is seen as detrimental to welfare society, eroding taxpaying morals and solidarity with fellow citizens. Settling the svart deal with money makes the links to market and state domains more pertinent. Even cash-settled deals are therefore often referred to as barters to create a reverse disentanglement, away from the formal market and moved closer to the realm of social exchanges. The informants express a verbal creativity in a joking manner. Exploring synonyms and metaphors reveals the informality, but the talk also shows that, as exchanges, they are part of everyday life. The article thus describes how illegal yet licit exchanges of work are articulated.
Transparency, debt, and the control of price in the Kathmandu land market
This article concerns the formation of price in Kathmandu’s land market. In Nepal, land has been for generations the bedrock of savings and household finance, an objectification of social status and a subject of intense political debate, up to and including the recent Maoist insurrection. In Kathmandu, however, the meaning of land has begun to change, mostly because of the rapid fluctuations in its monetary value. This article demonstrates how residents have used localized understandings of price and value formation to explain these changes, understandings that take as their reference point historical landlord-tenant relationships and not the machinations of market equilibrium. This article interrogates the notion that the market animates price, instead arguing that price can index a multitude of value formations.
Private Security in a Bolivian Marketplace
Daniel M. Goldstein
The appearance of effective security making—demonstrated through surveillance, visibility, and ongoing performance—is significant to contemporary sovereign authority in urban spaces characterized by quotidian violence and crime. This article examines La Cancha, Cochabamba, Bolivia’s enormous outdoor market, which is policed not by the state but by private security firms that operate as nonstate sovereign actors in the space of the market. The article provides an ethnographic account of one of these firms (the Men in Black), and documents the work of both municipal and national police—all of them distinguished by differently colored uniforms—in the management of crime, administration of justice, and establishment of public order in the market. Sovereignty here is derived through public performance, both violent and nonviolent, through which the Men in Black demonstrate and maintain their sovereign power.
Informality, Sociality, and the Greek Crisis
During times of crisis, economic practices organized on principles of reciprocity often arise. Greece, with the vibrant sociality pertaining to its 'solidarity economy', is a case in point. This article is premised on the idea that crises make contradictions in societies more visible. I suggest that a central contradiction is at play in Greece between informal and formalized economic activity, as demonstrated in the tension between the fluid features of 'solidarity' networks and the formalization proposed or imposed on them by state institutions. In Thessaloniki, the informal solidarity economy proves to be more efficient than the work of NGOs. Arguing that such economic activities are built around the rise of new forms of sociality rather than a tendency toward bureaucratization, the article contributes to anthropological understandings of solidarity and welfare, as well as their relation.
Hand-pulled Rickshaws in Kolkata
Gopa Samanta and Sumita Roy
This article examines the marginal mobilities of hand-pulled rickshaws and rickshaw-pullers in Kolkata, India. It traces the politics of rickshaw mobilities, showing how debates about modernity and the informal economy frequently overshadow the experience of the marginalized community of hand-rickshaw pullers. It shows how the hand-pulled rickshaw rarely becomes the focus of research or debate because of its marginal status—technologically (being more primitive than the cycle rickshaw); geographically (operating only in Kolkata city); and in terms of the social status of the operators (the majority being Bihari migrants in Kolkata). Drawing upon both quantitative and qualitative research, this study focuses on the backgrounds of the rickshaw-pullers, their strategies for earning livelihoods, the role of social networks in their life and work, and their perceptions of the profession—including their views of the state government's policy of seeking to abolish hand-pulled rickshaws. The article concludes by addressing the question of subalternity.
Regulating technologies, authority, and aesthetics in the resettlement of Taipei military villages
This article focuses on the “social failure” of the relocation of the residents from informal historical settlements—military dependents’ villages (juancun)—to high-rise blocks in Taiwan. How does the relocation impact the community and restructure social relationships? I argue social failure is the product of new regulative regimes deriving from the new governance of the high-rise, rather than of the built form of the complexes in itself. New home technologies such as intercoms, elevators, and electronic keys contribute to arguments over safety and convenience, while new regulations, implemented by new forms of authority, including condominium meetings and building administrators, foster the disappearance of household informal economies. Finally, the high-rise dictates new aesthetic norms, which prevent established practices and routines, while promoting what I call aesthetic of assimilation.
A study of transboundary town-twinning of Idiroko (Nigeria) and Igolo (Benin)
Olukayode A. Faleye
showcases the opportunistic informal economy of an African international boundary. As noted by Cassanelli (2010) , trans-border trade rouse primordial social affinities among geographically dispersed groups like the Somalis thereby creating social norms
Patrick O'Hare and Anna Szolucha
literature on precarity, informal economies, value, money, political organization and the good life. Millar lived with waste-pickers near the landfill and accompanied them not only into the dump, but also in their wider social lives. Evocative ethnographic