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Virus amongst the vegetables: Peruvian marketplaces, hygiene, and post-colonial indigeneity under gender-segregated quarantine

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Gender and public markets have long been intertwined in Peru. The vast majority of market-sellers are women, and significantly this kind of work has been intimately related to women’s empowerment and agency within a deeply patriarchal society. However, with the arrival of COVID-19 the woman-centred space of the marketplace became compromised. While once a place of female empowerment, during the pandemic the market became seen as a dangerous ‘viral vector’, with 79% of Lima market sellers testing positive for Coronavirus during the first lockdown of 2020. Further still, a gender-segregated quarantine policy drove women to the markets en-masse; a policy that was withdrawn early due to its spectacular, although unsurprising, failure, causing a total inability to social distance on ‘women’s days’. As such, this paper investigates the extent to which the pandemic increased the ‘feminised burden of care’ to include deadly viral infection during the gender segregated quarantine. Applying an intersectional, post-colonial framework, the ‘feminised burden of care’ is approached as stratified along racial and class lines since markets are not spaces for all women. Furthermore, this paper will show how these intersecting structures of power that have persisted through time may become more visible and observable in times of crisis, such as through Peru’s short-lived gender segregated quarantine. With this in mind, it will be possible to suggest that the events of 2020 were more than just policymaker missteps, but a persistence and exacerbation of long-existing entangled structures of colonial and patriarchal powers. As such, it can be inferred that in an emergency, it is these power structures that were automatically adopted as the first port of call, and thereby perpetuate and strengthen them into the future.
Title: Virus amongst the vegetables: Peruvian marketplaces, hygiene, and post-colonial indigeneity under gender-segregated quarantine
Description:
Gender and public markets have long been intertwined in Peru.
The vast majority of market-sellers are women, and significantly this kind of work has been intimately related to women’s empowerment and agency within a deeply patriarchal society.
However, with the arrival of COVID-19 the woman-centred space of the marketplace became compromised.
While once a place of female empowerment, during the pandemic the market became seen as a dangerous ‘viral vector’, with 79% of Lima market sellers testing positive for Coronavirus during the first lockdown of 2020.
Further still, a gender-segregated quarantine policy drove women to the markets en-masse; a policy that was withdrawn early due to its spectacular, although unsurprising, failure, causing a total inability to social distance on ‘women’s days’.
As such, this paper investigates the extent to which the pandemic increased the ‘feminised burden of care’ to include deadly viral infection during the gender segregated quarantine.
Applying an intersectional, post-colonial framework, the ‘feminised burden of care’ is approached as stratified along racial and class lines since markets are not spaces for all women.
Furthermore, this paper will show how these intersecting structures of power that have persisted through time may become more visible and observable in times of crisis, such as through Peru’s short-lived gender segregated quarantine.
With this in mind, it will be possible to suggest that the events of 2020 were more than just policymaker missteps, but a persistence and exacerbation of long-existing entangled structures of colonial and patriarchal powers.
As such, it can be inferred that in an emergency, it is these power structures that were automatically adopted as the first port of call, and thereby perpetuate and strengthen them into the future.

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