This assignment called Honest Streets: Informal Work in Buenos Aires consisted of immense research, analysis, and a complete final paper reporting on my findings. My professor, who just finished her 400-page dissertation, organized the process into nine separate, specific steps. First, within the first few weeks, we had to define a topic and research questions. This step took longer than expected because we learned that in order to develop a focus paper, we needed an extremely focused topic and questions.
In Greater Buenos Aires, 2.3 million workers are informal, according to the ILM module in 2005 (Esquivel 2010, 1). Because of the global economic crisis, informal work has become a widely prevalent coping mechanism, especially in regions with underemployment and flexible labor policies, such as Argentina. Risa Whitson, a professor of geography and women’s studies at Ohio University, defines informal work as “work that deals with legal products or services, but the production and distribution of these is either unregulated or illegal” (2007, 26). It provides no standard benefits, lacks a permanent contract, and excludes legal labor protection and representation. Moreover, informal work is unregistered and untaxed.
Next, I developed my preliminary argument. On this step, it was important to analyze what evidence I already had to support my point of view and what evidence I still needed to find. This step is when I also considered any counterarguments someone would have for my thesis statement and if I had any evidence to deny them. In addition, step two allowed me to see what key debates my research contributed. For example, my final argument was that self-help initiatives, like informal work, have been more successful in helping residents of Buenos Aires cope with the national economic crisis. I had plenty of evidence for this argument, such as, about half of all workers in Buenos Aires work informally and the corrupt government mainly provides workfare programs in order to get loyalty points. My research contributed to the debate that although the informal economy helps citizens and the state, it is, in the long run, harming the city residents because it lacks any benefits, payroll, or job security.
The third step was to understand and refine my core concepts; basically, what does my topic deal with? This helped me with my secondary research—forcing me to focus only on what will help me support my argument. Next, I refined my argument. I was able to use more of my research in order to define it even more in depth. On the fifth step, I was able to compile my thoughts into an abstract. The goal was to make it as concise, clear, and explicit as possible. In my abstract, I included the reason for my writing, the problem my work attempted to solve, my methodology and evidence, results, implications, and keywords. Obviously, this step took a few tries before it was finalized.
The outline preparation was the sixth step of the process. This is arguably one of the biggest and most time-consuming stages. I broke the outline up into four parts. First, I created a thesis statement. Second was the literature review. Here, I defined my four main concepts around which my literature review was organized, and then offered the scholarly sources to support the discussion for each concept. Next, I identified the main articulations of my argument and the key data. Finally, I explored my conclusions from primary and secondary research as well as my own arguments.
The seventh step consisted of exploring the responses to counterarguments. In the eighth step, I prepared for my first draft. I first dove deep into my literature review, linking my sources together around my topic. In addition, I listed some general debates and answered the “So what?” question of why everyone should be interested in reading my paper. Finally, I included my arguments and ideas by stating my research questions and working responses to them. After that, I was ready to write the research paper. We spent the majority of the semester on research and preparation which gave us only about two and a half weeks to write the actual paper. This was sufficient though because the paper was easy to write because of the intense preparation.
I developed and composed this capstone research paper for my International Studies Senior Seminar (INT 461). My professor’s expertise is sustaining heritage in rural France so she decided to focus the class around the city, instead. For the first time in history more people live in cities than in rural areas, so much so, that scholars refer our time as the “metropolitan age.” The course explored how urban development is shaped by and shapes processes of global change. In particular, it examines how as cities strengthen their international and cultural influence, globalization is acted out in the world’s urban hubs through diverse cultures, networks, and new styles of governance.
Every international studies major must study abroad for at least one semester so for our final papers, we focused on the city in which we each studied. Around this theme, I learned standard social science skills such as research paper design and scholarly literature reviews. I worked both individually and in a small group to identify and peer-review research questions. At the end, I delivered an individual presentation of my research findings toward the end of the semester.
In addition to the 15-page, single-spaced paper and individual presentation, we also studied different dynamics of “the city” in modern times. These readings helped me explore many different elements of the city including monopolization, informal work, and urban multiculturalism.
Elon prides itself on its emphasis on global citizenship. Students and faculty here at Elon are encouraged to engage and learn from each other as well as cultures from all around the world in order to develop into true global citizens. Elon prepares students for successful lives in this diverse 21st-century world by providing in- and out-of-class experiences that contribute to students’ national and international identity. Nevertheless, Elon still wants to get better. Elon wants to provide 100 percent study abroad access, triple the international student enrollment, create a campus community that better reflects the world’s diversity and be a national leader in preparing students to succeed in a multicultural world. Even with these future objectives, one can argue that Elon University is already the school to watch when it comes to global awareness in its students. For example, Elon leads the nation in the number of students with a study abroad experience. This shows the emphasis Elon puts on global citizenship.
From our freshman year required reading to our core classes focused on the interdisciplinary mindset, I am confident that Elon has turned me into even more of a global citizen than before my time here. My passion has always been traveling. Even though I have been fortunate enough to have my parents’ help, most of my savings has been dedicated to not a car, but traveling to amazing places such as Australia, Spain, and Argentina. In addition, I usually either travel by myself or with peers. Even though I’ve always had the “travel bug,” Elon allowed me to view national and international travel not just as a change of location, but also a change of mindset. One cannot be in the “Elon bubble” mindset when studying abroad for a semester.
When I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the fall of 2013, I did not go on an Elon-affiliated program—for financial and academic reasons—so I didn’t know anyone going on my trip. Instead of spending four months alone, I did what every true global citizen should do: walk around the city, hang out at a bar, and communicate with the locals to make friendships. I did know Spanish before living in Buenos Aires, but I didn’t realize how different Argentine Spanish was to any other Spanish I’ve ever learned before. But even with that cultural barrier, I was able to embrace the personalities and culture around me right away, which allowed me to learn much more about the country and its people than just sitting in my homestay’s apartment for four months and being “located” in Argentina. Study abroad is much more than the location; it’s the experience.
The International Studies major is, quite obviously, the number one major that emphasizes global citizenship within its students. International Relations (INT 141) and The World in the 20th Century (INT 221) are the foundation courses for the major. These classes allow students to prepare for their next steps at Elon through study abroad, Model UN, or any other path they wish to take. The major also requires at least eight study hours of one modern foreign language and must also demonstrate foreign language proficiency by successfully completing a foreign language course at the mid-200 level. I, along with many other International Studies majors, take this opportunity to add a foreign language minor to our curriculum. Being a Spanish minor helped me immensely when I traveled to Argentina. It really allowed me to dive deep into the culture, language, and people. Of course, the International Studies department also provides classes in politics and economics, history and geography, literature and world language, and society and culture.
I am extremely proud of my International Studies Senior Seminar final research paper. I worked closely with my professor to make it clear, concise, and worthwhile to read. I provided much important evidence and included a number of visuals to back up that evidence. My 30+ scholarly sources gave power to my paper, showing the reader that my argument and information is credible. In 15 single-spaced pages, I was able to review scholarship about informal work and neoliberal globalization in developing economies, assert my argument about those affected by the neoliberal policies and failed governmental intervention leading to the 2001 collapse, and finally, draw conclusions of what that implies and answer the “So what?” question.
Esquivel, Valeria. "The Informal Economy in Greater Buenos Aires: A Statistical Profile." Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing Working Paper, 2010: 1-43.
Whitson, Risa. "Beyond the Economic Crisis: Economic globalization and informal work in urban Argentina." Journal of Latin American Geography 6, no. 2 (2007): 121.