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Street Food: Practices of Urban Citizenship
Photograph depicting an ordinary street in Queens, New York. A vendor without a permit sells corn and tameless to pedestrians on their way to and from the subway.
Noah Allison (Postdoctoral fellow) | Social Sciences, Culinaria Research Centre | Scarborough, Arts & Science

Image Description: The sidewalks lining Roosevelt Avenue and 82nd Street in Queens, New York facilitate street food practices. While there may be a licensed vendor or two, most of the ventures operate without requisite city permits. These vendors are exclusively women and come from Latin America. They rely on shopping carts, plastic crates, water coolers, beverage jugs, and multi-colored umbrellas in their process of producing comestibles to feed Queens’ multigroup public. Capturing this intersection, this picture shows how smoke penetrating skewered meats and ears of corn serve as indicators of the informal economy.  

The focus on Queens stems from my dissertation research that examines how fundamental practices of everyday life—cooking, eating, and selling food—shape how people make sense of one of North America’s most socially diverse neighborhoods.  

By continuously claiming space for multiple decades, this study reveals that food practices in Queens empower racialized migrant women. While unauthorized to work, the vendors nevertheless exercise the right that legal citizens with requisite municipal permits have by hawking foods on these sidewalks and are therefore subject to the municipal regulations imposed on citizens. It is in this way that unauthorized practices of selling food on the street are performative practices of citizenship. 

Technique: This picture was captured on a SRL digital camera.


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