Keeping the pitch on track: spatiotemporal challenges in ambulant vending on a Buenos Aires trainline

Márquez Reiter, Rosina and Manrique-Cordeje, Elizabeth (2024). Keeping the pitch on track: spatiotemporal challenges in ambulant vending on a Buenos Aires trainline. Multilingua (in press).

Abstract

This article examines ambulant vendors’ labour on a Buenos Aires trainline. It explores how vendors employ a range of verbal and embodied resources to navigate the challenges of sustaining attention from commuters and manage the progressivity of their sales pitch as they achieve individual service encounters and deal with physical obstructions intrinsic to the local ecology of the train and the contingencies of earning a livelihood on the move. An interactional pragmatics analysis of vendors’ working practices as video-recorded by them coupled with ethnographic observations, reveals the complex interplay of verbal and embodied cues, spatial arrangements, and temporal constraints in relation to the progressivity of their sales pitch. The findings challenge long-held negative views of vendors’ presence in public space by highlighting the methodical approach, dexterity, and civility of their working practices, and how their labour fills a gap in the market. The article provides new insights into the dynamics of urban labour in public spaces and the intrinsicality of multimodality to manoeuvre round the unequal conditions these workers inhabit.

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