Cosmopolitan Culture and Migration in Ecuador: Intersections of Class, Ethnicity and Gender in the Quito Food Truck Scene

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This paper explores the formation of consumerist cosmopolitanisms and migration through complex social and cultural practices of consumption in Quito’s food truck scene. The food truck scene is a relatively new development in Ecuador’s culinary landscape, shaped by Venezuelan migrants, in an attempt to establish a new, niche market in food consumption. Focusing on the interactions between consumers and owners of food truck brands in Quito, this empirical study examines how the urban food scene is negotiated by food truck owners, workers, and consumers in these highly stylized spaces. Using a wide range of cultural strategies, food truck brand managers (many of whom are Venezuelan migrants), tap into a set of cosmopolitan imaginaries about consumers, aesthetics, and consumption to shape a festive, global experience of eating out a defined food truck patio environment. However, on the consumption side, far from matching pre-conceived notions of “cosmopolitan consumers”, held by food truck owners, cultural, gender, and class boundaries demonstrate a high degree of fragmentation in the ways in which Ecuadorian consumers participate and identify with these new urban spaces. The paper will highlight the diverse, nuanced, conflicting ways in which consumerist cosmopolitanisms are performed in Quito’s food truck scene.

About the speaker

Photo of Cheryl MartensCheryl Martens lectures in Sociology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Manchester. She has lectured at universities in Argentina, Ecuador, Japan, Slovakia and the United Kingdom and is currently visiting Lecturer for the PhD program in Social Sciences at the National University of Cuyo, Argentina. Her research and publications concentrate on the Sociology and Political Economy of communication and everyday life, media policy, digital activism, well-being and corporate-social partnerships. Her recent publications include “Questioning Technology in South America” in Thesis Eleven (2017) and two co-edited collections: The International Political Economy of Communication: Media and Power in South America (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014) and Strategies for Media Reform: International Perspectives (Fordham University Press, 2016).

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