Mobilizing the streets: the role of food vendors in urban life

Noah Allison, Krishnendu Ray, Jaclyn Rohel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper introduces a special issue on food vending in the city. It contextualizes a collection of papers on street food and markets across time and global space that authors submitted before the 2020 pandemic. Focusing specifically on the mobilization of urban space for food provisioning and microenterprise, we theorize markets beyond the singular narrative of capital accumulation. Given the particular moment of its publication–which comes almost one year after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus to be a pandemic in March 2020–our introduction probes the impact of COVID-19 on food vendors as well as on the cities that sustain them. Drawing on examples from cities such as New Delhi, New York City, Los Angeles and beyond, we comment on how the pandemic has unleashed threats to livelihoods and liveliness, and we also draw attention to the possibility of new social and economic opportunities in this moment of crisis, including innovative uses of urban space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-15
Number of pages14
JournalFood, Culture and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Street vending
  • food
  • global South
  • informal labor
  • livelihood
  • markets
  • migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies


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