Date of Award

August 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Mehrzad Boroujerdi


Informal Economy, International Political Economy, Neoliberalism, South Asia, Street Vendors, Urban Politics

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This is a study on the puzzling case of neoliberal pro-market states enacting policies that attempt to curb the competitive and profitable businesses of urban street vendors. Accordingly, this project asks a simple question: if neoliberal governance of the economy prescribes a positive disposition towards the market system driven by selfish pecuniary gain, then why are informal street vendors regularly evicted and harassed by neoliberal states in cities around the world? To answer this, I analyze the literature on neoliberalism and the informal economy and provide new theoretical insight into the internal contradiction of neoliberal principles in the context of the informal economy of selling. I argue that the conflict with informal street vendors and the states is a manifestation of this contradiction. Through my field research on informal street vendors (or hawkers) of Kolkata I demonstrate this contradiction by analyzing the political economy of street vending. Specifically, I study the social movement of hawkers and show how the right to sell in the city of Kolkata is negotiated and configured in the neoliberal era. I argue that this case of Kolkata hawkers is a symptom of a larger struggle over spaces of selling in the neoliberal era which has been overlooked in my discipline. Thus, I hope this project will provide fresh avenues of future research on the political economy of selling through studies of the struggle between the forces of formalization and informalization of retail spaces.


Open Access