Jacinto Cuvi

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Jacinto-148Welcome to my site.

I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Institut de Sociologie of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. I received my PhD in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Before moving to Texas, I was at Sciences Po Paris, where I obtained an MA in comparative politics with a thesis on the reform of the Peruvian tax bureaucracy. For my dissertation, I stepped across the state-civil society boundary and into the street vending economy of South America’s largest city: São Paulo.

Starting in August 2013, I spent a year on the streets of downtown São Paulo researching the lives and politics of peddlers. I surveyed them, interviewed them, watched them deal with customers, ran with them (when police approached), and mapped their daily movements. My quest to understand the street vending economy also took me into the corridors of City Hall, the alleyways of underground malls, the offices of street vendors’ associations, political rallies, NGO-sponsored fora, police barracks, Pentecostal churches, street vendors’ assemblies, their storage places, and their homes. Towards the end of my time in the field, Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup. Thanks to a dissertation grant from the NSF, I spent the month of the World Cup observing street vendors, trying to figure out who were the “winners” and “losers” and what resources successful entrepreneurs drew on.

But (why) do street vendors matter?

Street vendors are a central part of the informal economy. Across the developing world, informal workers engage in small-scale, off-the-books economic activities that are neither criminal nor entirely compliant with the law. The informal economy provides a livelihood to millions of urban residents, many of them migrants. According to the ILO, almost 50 percent of employment in Latin America is informal. At the same time, street vendors are often regarded as an eyesore and a nuisance, if not criminals in disguise. They face the constant threat of eviction by policymakers seeking to build world-class cities.

My research seeks to understand the implications of this policy environment for the survival of the urban poor. It builds upon recent scholarship that underscores the role(s) of state actors in informal markets. Using archival research, ethnographic observation, interviewing, and survey data analysis, I dissect several cases of state intervention against and in favor of street vendors, including licensing programs, a mass-eviction campaign, and World Cup organizing. I pay special attention to the politics behind state intervention (or lack thereof), the short- and long-term consequences of such interventions, and the ways in which vendors cope with pressures from state agents and competitors. To learn more about my research,  click here or go to “Research” on the menu.

 

 

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