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Cultural gentrification: Gourmet and Latinx immigrant food trucks vendors in Los Angeles

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By focusing on Latinx immigrant food truck vendors in Los Angeles, this article calls to rethink and expand how we understand gentrification as a mechanism of neo-liberal redevelopment ideologies in space by extending these spatial understandings of gentrifying processes not only as physical spatial displacement but also as a way to exclude meanings and histories of marginalized populations. These exclusions contribute to a racialized mobile food vending hierarchy, dialectically produced through urban policies that actively further urban inequalities, resulting in what I call cultural gentrification. I argue that cultural gentrification can occur through commodification of cultural economic forms like mobile food vending by the urban truck revolution phenomena. Although these gentrification processes do not entail physical displacement of a group of people by another group, since Latinx taco trucks and street vendors do not sell in the same areas as gourmet food trucks, they do create barriers, exclusions and invisibilities that maintain racialized mobile food vending hierarchies through urban policies that actively further urban inequalities. The study draws on qualitative research undertaken in Los Angeles intermittently from 2004 to 2013 of Latinx food truck vendors, gourmet food truck vendors, local-state actors and business owners key informants.
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Keywords: Latinx geographies; critical food studies; cultural gentrification; food trucks; gentrification; gourmet food trucks; informal economy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Minnesota, USA and University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Publication date: March 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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