“Invisible in Austin” panel at Texas Book Festival. Photo by Nancy Flores

While Austin’s reputation for being a hip, fun and weird city is known throughout the country, there are Austinites who never experience that side of the city. They live on the margins of the most economically segregated city in America.

At the Texas Book Festival’s Texas Tent on Sunday, University of Texas sociology professor Javier Auyero and two of his graduate students Katherine Jensen and Caitlyn Collins discussed the ambitious project they launched in order to get to know the people who are now featured in the book “Invisible in Austin.”

“Invisible in Austin,” features the lives of residents like cab drivers, exotic dancers and house cleaners who are struggling to make ends meet.

“I want to believe that what we write matters,” Auyero said. The goal was not to necessarily push any type of policy, but instead to spark an important conversation beyond academia.

Jensen’s chapter of the book focued on a Kumar, who is a cab driver from Nepal who received political asylum. In this native country, Kumar was an attorney and professor and he reveals to Jensen how in Austin he’s sometimes mistreated by passengers.

“Why should we keep Austin weird?” he told her. “I’m not weird. I’m usual.”

Collins interviewed exotic dancer Raven, who began stripping after chasing many low-paying waitressing jobs.

When asked about writing a second volume to the book, Auyero and his students said they there are possiblities of looking at different angles in the future, either looking at the wealthy of Austin or re-interviewing the “Invisible in Austin” featured residents.