The Untold Flavor Of Indonesian Street Food

A study of Indonesian street vendors finds them adapting to aggressive urbanization by creating mutually supportive social and economic networks.

AsianScientist (May 30, 2019) – In a study published in Asia Pacific Viewpoint, researchers in Japan found that street food vendors in Indonesia support one another socially and economically to sustain their livelihoods.

Street food vendors are ubiquitous in low- and middle-income countries. They offer quick, cheap, and diverse food and drink, while also serving as sources of employment and socialization. Yet, because the stalls block sidewalks and supposedly drag down real estate values, urbanization projects commonly try to ban or relocate them.

In this study, researchers led by Dr. Prananda Luffiansyah Malasan at Kanazawa University, Japan, wanted to understand how street food vendors resist and adapt to changing, urbanizing society. They examined street food vendors in the rapidly growing city of Bandung, Indonesia, and noted that Bandung had used both aggressive zoning laws and relocation tactics to stifle vendor activity. This, however, led to a rise in ‘intermediary’ systems of informal local ‘organizers’ and paid protection—essentially thugs—to keep official authorities away. Vendors themselves sometimes use social skills and soft politics to survive.

The informality of street vending has also expanded the characteristics of vendors. Some are seasonal, some are reasonably well off and some even use modern marketing tactics. The team also observed a type of middle-class street vendor who use their daytime office talents to run side hustles as food vendors at night. For instance, one company employee by day actively promotes his small nighttime food stall using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“I found street vendors use subtle forms of resistance,” Malasan said. “As social infrastructure, they build networks, employ protection and bring in new techniques. They show that fighting back against aggressive urbanization can be inventive and understated.”

The article can be found at: Malasan et al. (2019) The Untold Flavor of Street Food: Social Infrastructure as a Means of Everyday Politics for Street Vendors in Bandung, Indonesia.


Source: Kanazawa University. Photo: Kanazawa University.
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