Ana botol on the street: between gifts and commodities
Paper short abstract:
Based on fieldwork with ana botol (meaning “bottle kids”) in West Timor, Indonesia, this paper tries to bring a new perspective to research on the urban street by treating the street as a space where two economic systems, namely the gift economy and the commodity economy, interweave and alternate.
Paper long abstract:
Kupang is the largest city of West Timor, Indonesia. Atoni Meto, an ethnic group which makes up about half of the island's population, mainly reside in underdeveloped villages in the mountains east of Kupang. Since they have hardly any educational opportunities, they have no choice but to engage in low-wage and low-skilled occupations on the streets in Kupang. Among them is a group of men called ana botol (bottle kids), who work as waste collectors, recyclers and peddlers. When an ana botol has made some money, he will go back to his village and spend the money there. The earnings they make on the street are all used to buy gifts for rituals such as weddings, funerals, and rebuilding tombs in their village. Then they return to Kupang and go back to their work on the street. Such generosity is considered proof of being a mature member of the village. Performing rituals in the village is an important motivation of their labor, and also the main goal of their lives on the urban street. Based on fieldwork with ana botol, the paper tries to bring a new perspective to research on the urban street by treating the street as a space where two economic systems, namely the gift economy and the commodity economy, interweave and alternate. Ana botol make their life at the edge of the market economy, their lives connected to it but not completely included in it.
A challenge of street anthropology