Performative Neoliberal‐Parasitic Economies: The Chicago Case


In‐migrants moving into US cities from Mexico today confront a new punishing reality: neoliberal‐parasitic economies. This article examines the daily, ritualized production of knowledge by these temporary labor agencies, day‐labor hirers, check cashers, payday lenders and pawnshops that functions to normalize their existence and actions. A focus on the largest Mexican community in the American Midwest, Chicago’s Little Village, chronicles two points. First, these economic institutions actively produce knowledge in potentially controversial and volatile circumstances that helps legitimize their existence and actions. This production of knowledge centers on two constructs: who these entrepreneurs are as beings and who their customer base is. Secondly, this knowledge is grounded in offers of key spatial imaginaries that provide form and substance to these presentations of entrepreneurs and customers. Two spatial imaginaries are most important: the tumultuous Mexican barrio and the idealized Mexican ethnoscape. These results show a turbulent and precarious economy in Little Village that is performative, rhetorically charged, and deploys imaginary spaces.