19th November 2012

‘Marketplaces as an Urban Development Strategy; Special Issue Call for Papers

Built Environment

Call for papers: Special issue on “Marketplaces as an Urban Development Strategy”

Freek Janssens, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam
Ceren Sezer, Spatial Planning and Strategy, Delft University of Technology 

Marketplaces are much more than the commercial gathering places that city authorities sometimes take them to be. As sites of interactions of flows of people, goods and information, marketplaces are intrinsically linked to the everyday life of the city. They have been important engines for urban growth, while simultaneously providing sustainable solutions to accommodate this growth (Agnew, 1983; Bestor, 2004; Jacobs, 1970; Kostof, 1992). Indeed, the flexibility of the spatial and temporal organisation of marketplaces attracts users of all kinds and provide vivid and inclusive public spaces that facilitate an improvised and spontaneous synergy of people and communities, which is at the core of the city’s public life (Anderson, 2004; Favero 2003; Healey, 2006; Venturi et al, 1972; Watson, 2006).

However, marketplaces are also domains of public discontent and dispute (Aguiar, 2007; Seligmann, 2004). Conflicting interests, for example public benefit v.s. private entrepreneurship, frustrate ambitious city agendas that aspire to profit from the strategic qualities of marketplaces, resulting in a lack of confidence in the benefit of public marketplaces by cities worldwide, such as London or Istanbul (Janssens, 2012). There is, therefore, a need to understand more clearly how markets can support public life in the city.

This is even more important today, as markets are under growing pressure. Increasingly, city officials characterise markets as problematic sites in relation to health and safety, traffic congestion, chaos, and in general illegality (Aguiar, 2007; Sezer & Costes, 2010). This narrative is fed by the lobby of international chain stores – a phenomenon that is not exclusively visible in the global North, but which is also a growing trend in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. (Schiemeken & Carls, 1999; Sezer & Cortes, 2010; Simms 2007).

Meanwhile, late capitalist society has paradoxically snatched the romantic image of the marketplace as a tool to urban name branding and place-making (Robertson, 1995). Such has been the fate of downtown Boston’s Quincy Market and New York City’s South Street Seaport, among various examples. However, the revitalisation that is being chased by these practises is commonly linked to exclusive private housing and retail projects. In other words, the romantic image of the marketplace serves in many cases as a catalyst for gentrifying neighbourhoods, rather than improving them in an inclusive way that benefits vulnerable groups in society. In the light of these developments, marketplaces risk losing their qualities as generators of vital public spaces in the city.

These issues call for the attention of professionals who can put marketplaces onto the urban agenda, this time not as a place of exclusion and gentrification, but as creative strategies to improve the lives of people in the neighbourhood. The main question of this special issue will therefore be: How can marketplaces function as urban development strategies that facilitate the interaction among different people and groups in the public space of the city, and hereby support inclusive city life?

We ask the authors of this special issue to approach the main question from three different angles:

  1. Marketplaces and communities: How can marketplaces support communities? What are the qualities of marketplaces that set them apart from other public spaces?
  2. Marketplaces and governance: How can local governments manage their markets? How can regulation be improved to reflect the adaptability of marketplaces?
  3. Marketplaces and design: What kind of creative spatial and temporal strategies can balance both the needs and restrictions of the communities and governance?

We anticipate that the authors will be inspired to draw relations among the three different topics that surround the main question of the urban marketplace. Indeed, none of these three angles will individually be able to grapple the main question. However, from their respective background and expertise, the authors in this special issue will contribute towards a novel and explicitly interdisciplinary approach to understand an important, yet neglected, aspect of modern urban life. The issue will present a set of conversations between various professionals, such as anthropologists, public policy makers, designers, architects and urban planners, with the cases distributed in a wide geographical scope. In this way, we not only aim to enhance our understanding of marketplaces, but we also generate an exchange between these different ideas grounded in a variety of temporal and geographical circumstances and situated in both theoretical discussion and actual design.

Deadline for abstracts is November 30, 2012.  After preliminary review by the editors, selected authors will be invited to submit full proposals by December 29, 2013 and full papers by January 27, 2013.

Proposals can be sent to: f.janssens@uva.nl


Agnew, J.C. 1986: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aguiar, J. C. 2007: Dirty CDs. Piracy, Globalisation and the Emergence of New Illigalities in the San Juan de Dios Market, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.

Anderson, E. 2004: ‘The cosmopolitan canopy,’ The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 595: 14-31. (folk ethnography – US)

Bestor, T. C. 2004: Tsukiji: The fish market at the center of the world, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Favero, P. 2003: ‘Phantasms in a “Starry” Place: Space and Identification in a Central New Delhi Market,’ Cultural Anthropology, 18 (4): 551-584.

Healey, P.2006: Pollachos Polis Legetai (There are many ways to say polis); or Community and the Visible of the City, in Visualizing the Invisible eds. Read, S. and Pinilla, C., Techne Press: Amsterdam.

Jacobs, J. 1970: The Economy of Cities. New York: Vintage Books.

Janssens, F. 2012: Marketplaces as sites of everyday revolution, paper presented at the International Conference on Interpretative Policy Analysis.

Kostof, S. 2005: The City Assembled, The Elements of Urban Form Through History,  New York: Thames and Hudson.

Seligmann, L. 2004: Peruvian Street Lives: Culture, Power, and Economy Among Market Women of Cuzco, Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Sezer,C. , Pinzon Cortes, C. 2010: Market Places as an urban development strategy, in Betonart Architectural Magazine. Istanbul :Cemre.

Simms, A. 2007: Tescopoly: How one shop came out on top and why it matters, London: Constable.

Schiemeken, J. , Carls,K. 1999: The British Market Hall: A Social and Architectural History, New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

Watson, S. 2006: City Publics. The (Dis)Enchantments of Urban Encounters, London: Routledge.