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 effects-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
Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology
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