Pradnya Paramita DaradasihAlumnus
Street Vendors in Jakarta
Jakarta Street Vendor
Vibrant and chaotic. That is the first impression you get of the streets in Jakarta, Indonesia. Traffic jams and pollution are very common companions for a walk in the city. The sidewalks and streets are no longer a space only for walking and transportation facilities. Eating, drinking, trading, vending, dancing, singing, we can find all of these activities in the streets of Jakarta.
Street Vending, a Tradition
One of the main sights in the streets of Jakarta is the presence of the street vendors. The growth of the street vendors population began after the building of streets and sidewalks by the Dutch-Indische government around the year 1900. At that time, the main priority for city development was to provide roads for military transport and trading connections throughout the city, as at that time, Batavia (present-day Jakarta city) was a major trading port 1. And so, the dimensions of streets, sidewalks and greeneries were very strictly reckoned.2
The vendors who sold basic goods to people, traveled from their farms to the market or from the harbor alongside the streets. On their way they sometime stopped and rested and the people they met along the way would buy the goods on the street.
For many years now, street vending has been a tradition of micro-economic society in Indonesia. Street vending in Indonesia is growing even faster than in other Asian countries because of the strong historical value to a society that is constructed as subjects through a series of already existing discourses. This strong trading tradition is based on an intimate relationship between the street vendors and the customers. This relationship is a strong characteristic that distinguishes the street vendors from any other form of trading in Indonesia. It allows customization of orders for example, the customer is allowed to bargain over the price and he/she can ask the vendor for additional items.
This traditional relationship between street vendor and customer is similar to the “Tradition and Democratic Politics “written by Chantall Mouffe in the book “ The return of the Political” :
“Tradition allows us to think our own insertion into historicity, the fact that we are constructed as subjects through a series of already existing discourses, and that it is through this tradition which forms us that the world is given to us and all political action made possible. A conception of politics like that of Michael Oakeshott, who attributes a central role to the existing 'traditions of behavior' and who sees political action as 'the pursuit of an intimation', is very useful and productive for the formulation of radical democracy. “3
Street vending in Jakarta has grown for many years, and it is one of the most visible activities in Jakarta city life. Nowadays, the street has become a place of conflict between pedestrians, other road users, and the street vendors. It is impossible to eliminate, or circumvent the existence of street vendors in city planning. The very identity of the street vendors cannot be separated from the interaction between vendors and customers. The rapidly increasing population of street vendors indicates that the street vendors are successfully maintaining sustainable trading activities that continue for years. It also indicates that society still needs and buys goods that are sold by the vendors.
Agonistic City Planning
Nowadays, Indonesia is facing many problems related to space and inhabitance. The country has the 4th largest population in the world, with 237,641,326 by May 2010 4. The Jakarta area of 662.33 km2, had a population of 9.588.198 during 2010 census, which suggests a population density of 14,464 people/km2: the ninth highest urban population density in the world. The population of Jakarta has risen from 1.2 million in 1960 to 8.8 million in 2004, counting only its legal residents.
A similar issue of hawker control also appears in India. Concerns about city planning and the role of street vendors in India, were stated in the “Economic and Political Weekly, May 27, 2006, by Jonathan Shapiro Anjari :
“The hawker question is central to the debates over public space in Mumbai. Since the late 1990s, elite NGOs and residents’ associations have been actively promoting, with some success, the idea that hawkers are to be blamed for many of the city’s problems. To them, hawkers are “a symbol of a metropolitan space gone out of control” [Rajagopal 2001:94]; a “menace” who inappropriately use streets and footpaths, block traffic, depress real estate values and are, more generally, eyesores that prevent Mumbai from being a “world-class” city. This despite the fact that street hawking has had a long historical presence in Mumbai, provides essential services to most of the population and provides direct employment for over three lakh people, in addition to indirectly employing hundreds of thousands more [Bhowmik 2003].Their essential and at the same time contentious presence on the streets requires a critical engagement with the function of public space and the role of street hawkers in future plans for the city.”5
 Peter Nas (2002). "Java and De Groote Postweg, La Grande Route, the Great Mail Road, Jalan Raya Pos" (PDF). In: Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 158. pp. 707–725. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
Ahmed, I, 1999. Additional Insights on Indonesian's Unemployment Crisis, paper presented at the Workshop on Food and Nutrition, LIPI, 10-12 May 1999, Jakarta.
Mouffe, Chantal. On the Political. Abingdon – New York: Routledge, 2005.
Anjari, Jonathan Shapiro. Economic and Political Weekly May 27, 2006
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1980. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of Mille Plateaux. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.