In 2020, my PhD thesis Popular infrastructural politics: Trader organisation and public markets in Mexico City was made available on the White Rose eTheses Online repository.

This work proposes the concept of popular infrastructural politics to capture the distinctive political practices and discourses developed by subaltern urban actors. It focuses on how these politics emerge and consolidate in, from, around, and through infrastructures. The concept also functions as an entry point to explore the political socialisation, organisation and mobilisation with which subaltern groups participate in urban politics and city-making.

More specifically, the notion of popular infrastructural politics is used to encapsulate the political experiences of Mexico City’s market traders and their role in producing a public markets network. The thesis sheds light on why and how various generations of around 70,000 market traders have come to defend and expand a food supply network that in 2018 comprised 329 commercial facilities.

San Pedro Zacatenco Market
San Pedro Zacatenco Market. Photo: LFTC, 2018.

The study foregrounds the traders’ multifaceted encounters with the state and analyses their contentious politics and repertoires of collective action as mediated by infrastructures. This emphasises the traders’ struggles against long-lasting experiences of political neglect, material deterioration and economic decline. Analysed against a background of neoliberal urban policies implemented since the late 1980s, the thesis reveals how struggles for the right to subsistence, political autonomy and infrastructure have shaped Mexico City’s retail, legal, policy, and material landscapes.

Empirically grounded, this work provides a detailed picture of the contested nature of popular infrastructural politics. And while it draws attention to both the traders’ political agency and dependency and the markets’ disciplinary and empowering capabilities, it also highlights that these politics have played a key role in preventing the dismantlement of public infrastructure for several decades.

“Long live the popular markets.” Photo: LFTC, 2018.

This project was conducted in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and supported by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT, Mexico), Grant number 262842/440783.