Backbreaking Work:Female Food Vendors, Globalization and The Legacies Of Indigenous Systems In Southwestern Nigeria

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Tola PEARCE , Sociology, University of Missouri, Columbia, Columbia, MO
Backbreaking Work: Female Food Vendors, Globalization and the Legacies of Indigenous Systems in Southwestern Nigeria.

My interest in the wellbeing of women in Africa comes from a longstanding concern about how indigenous practices, rights, and responsibilities interacted with imported western structures and policies during the colonial period and after (Pearce 1989, 2000, 2005). Then as now, there have been unintended consequences for segments of the population. This paper focuses on the impact of neoliberal globalization on the lives of working mothers: low income female food vendors. The paper uses data collected in 2007/2008 in Ibadan, Nigeria to explore how capabilities developed in an earlier era have been folded into the expanding requirements of economic globalization.  The data come from a larger, multi-sample study begun in 1984 that has investigated many aspects of the vendors’ lives. I take my lead from Sassen’s (2006) use of the term ‘capabilities’ and her suggestion that we pay attention to systems as well as individuals: How do emerging systems depend on capabilities created within the old order? Much of the economic and social welfare of the pre-colonial order rested on household production in which female economic and reproductive roles were central.  With colonization, women continued to work, but with less public assistance than men.  Independence brought the promise of increased services: health, education, electricity, etc. However, the quality of life declined and development policies have enabled both the state and spouses to capture women’s roles as providing mothers. The paper assesses work environments and the women’s position within the economy. Globalization is, for example, destabilizing former negotiations on responsibilities for children (eg. school fees). Under mounting stress women appear to look to individualized solutions to problems. A major focus for them has been religion.

Tola Olu Pearce

University of Missouri, Columbia