Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Communication and Information Studies

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Chike M. Anyaegbunam

Abstract

The retail sector in India is experiencing a shift from an industry dominated by small grocers serving the needs of local markets to one characterized by chain retailers, both national and international. The liberalization of the retail sector in the last decade has edged the street-vendors, squatters, and small retailers from the prime business spaces to marginalized peripheries, which had led to widespread localized protests by the small retailers all over the country.

The Aminabad Market in a metro city in northern India provided a unique opportunity to study ongoing resistance against chain retailing. The retailers of Aminabad were at the center of the most vocal protests and organized numerous strikes that led to the government action. Within this setting, this study employed an ethnographic methodology to explore the narratives of resistance by the street vendors, squatters, and small retailers in a traditional market in India.

The study further explores the protests that are constituted in ‘local’ market conditions; and how they can become the basis for universalization of ‘local’ resistance into the mass-based movements. For this purpose, the theoretical framework utilizing Harvey’s conceptualizations of local resistance movements as well as Williams’ concept of the “militant particularisms” and narrative storytelling were used in this study. To this purpose, the study examines small retailers’ participation, their use of communication strategies to develop resistance narratives, and the techniques used in universalizing the resistance.

The implications of current study suggest that although the typical small retailers maintains a defiant narrative against chain retailing, the social, economic, political differences within prevent the formulation of a unified agenda that represents their diversity. The unresolved ideological, social, and economic particularities within small retailing have a divisive influence on their resistance movement.

The study also discusses the use of “Participatory Action” approach for facilitating a productive participation among the constituents, which can be a way forward for future research. Participatory Action can actively facilitate the resolution of underlying ironies for reforming and recreating the institutions according to the small retailers’ needs and resistance discourse that reflects their collective expression.

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