For me, the most striking moment that was brought up in this reading was that cities used to not be
“discussed as places, neighborhoods, or cultural bases”, and that “cities in developing countries were formerly seen as cesspools of disease and filth”. Personally, I relate to the issue of sidewalks being used for street vendors in Jakarta. I often felt that they were an eyesore and prevented the sidewalks from being properly used. Recently, however, the Jakarta government had started cleaning them up. I was delighted at how orderly it was, but I noticed that the street vendors weren’t completely gone. During this reading, I realize that these areas where the street vendors are did provide recreation places for the lower-income families during weekends. Moreover, now that these places are properly lighted and organized by the local government, it retains the “cultural base” and flavor while not being a, for lack of a better word, “cesspool”.
As I reflected, I realize that the government and the local people agreed to some extent that these places provides economic and social benefits. The vendors do get a fair amount of business from lower-income and middle-class alike, and the neat, revamped place provides a hang-out hub for youth (as opposed to illegal or back-alley activities). The sidewalks were also widened to provide space for both vendors, customers, and passerby. This did not compromise the comfort nor social vibrancy of the place.
I realize that ethnography is indeed important for public policies regarding even such a small thing such as sidewalk policies. Had the government been ignorant of the culture and vibrancy of the place, the street vendors would had been out of job or have to move around. The place would also lose the hustle and bustle that defines that particular place.
- What about property rights on neighborhood streets? It would be interesting to find out how the same concepts apply to different kind of neighborhoods (low-income, higher-income).
- Could the sidewalk vitality be something that is also felt by the higher-income group?