Begging as a Path to Progress: Indigenous Women and Children and the Struggle for Ecuador's Urban Spaces (2010) Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation Series (edited by Nik Heynen, Andrew Herod and Melissa Wright). Athens: University of Georgia Press.
In 1992, Calhuasí, an isolated Andean town, got its first road. Newly connected to Ecuador's large cities, Calhuasí experienced rapid social-spatial change, which Kate Swanson richly describes in Begging as a Path to Progress.
Based on nineteen months of fieldwork, Swanson's study pays particular attention to the ideas and practices surrounding youth. While begging seems to be inconsistent with - or even an affront to - ideas about childhood in the developed world, Swanson demonstrates that the majority of income earned from begging goes toward funding Ecuadorian children's educations in hopes of securing more prosperous futures.
Examining beggars' organized migration networks, as well as the degree to which children can express agency and fulfill personal ambitions through begging, Swanson argues that Calhuasí's beggars are capable of canny engagement with the forces of change. She also shows how frequent movement between rural and urban Ecuador has altered both, masculinizing the countryside and complicating the Ecuadorian conflation of whiteness and cities. Finally, her study unpacks ongoing conflicts over programs to "clean up" Quito and other major cities, noting that revanchist efforts have had multiple effect - spurring more dangerous transnational migration, for example, while also providing some women and children with tourist-friendly local spaces in which to sell a notion of Andean authenticity.
"This is an extremely engaging book which challenges many assumptions that are taken for granted around begging, gender and childhoods in Ecuador. . . .Begging as a Path to Progress will not disappoint, for it pushes the reader to consider multiple perspectives and aspects of begging which unravel myths and reveal racist and sexist attitudes towards indigenous girls and young women in Ecuador."- Samantha Punch, Journal of Latin American Studies
"Begging as a Path to Progress is an excellent book that comes to some arresting conclusions. Pleasingly and accessibly written, it is a major contribution to the fields of youth geographies, development studies, and interdisciplinary research on childhood."- Craig Jeffrey, coauthor of Degrees Without Freedom?: Education, Masculinities, and Unemployment in North India
"With an astute ethnographic eye, Kate Swanson rescripts begging as work, work that brings children and families to towns but provides means for their home villages to stay afloat, work that is embedded in kin networks whose sprawling geographies give new meaning to the notion of extended family, work whose received constructions suggest laziness and shame but which offers young people the autonomy to go to school and otherwise advance in their encounters with a rapidly globalizing economy. Reimagining the situated practices of begging and household reproduction strategies in Ecuador, Begging as a Path to Progress works across scale and locality to see the country in the city, the city in the country, and probe the differentiated consequences of global tourism and policies like 'zero tolerance' as they ricochet across national frontiers."
- Cindi Katz, author of Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children's Everyday Lives
UGA Press page here
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Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation Series here
Interview about the book on Latin America Book Reviews here
Video interview concerning my research for the book (and life as a geographer) here
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