|Title||Spatial characteristics that create & sustain functional encounters: a new three-layered model for unpacking how street markets support urbanity|
This dissertation explores the role of street markets in supporting urbanity as defined by Sennett (1974) to mean the ability for people to ‘act together without the compulsion to be the same’. The study draws together and builds on three strands of literature – public space, difference and social encounters – to propose a new model of urbanity that provides a conceptual link between the physical characteristics of space, its ability to support differences, and the encounters that take place within it. Previous writings on urbanity have explored a variety of urban spaces but this study is the first to focus on street markets. Using qualitative semi-structured interviews, informal participant observations and a quantitative structured survey, the study explores the attitudes of market traders and customers towards difference and diversity within two ‘ordinary’ case-study London street markets in ethnically diverse and comparatively deprived urban areas.
The core finding is that there are seven characteristics of street markets, presented over a three-layered model, that make them highly effective in creating and sustaining functional encounters that support urbanity. Layer I consists of three spatial characteristics – (1) micro-borders, (2) precarity and (3) proximity – that generate moments of mutual solidarity through functional encounters based on cooperation and trust. Layer II identifies two characteristics of functional encounters – (4) adaptable content and (5) familiar form – that seed ‘sociabililties of emplacement’ through mundane rituals of civility that can satisfy both established residents and newcomers. Layer III extends the conventional definition of functional encounters to include sustaining contact between people: this generates two types of conviviality – (6) ‘inconsequential’ and (7) consequential intimacy – supporting deeper-rooted sociabilities of emplacement that are more resistant to challenge. There are additional findings for conflict and competition that cut across the above and are presented separately.
The seven characteristics found in the study combine to replace third-hand stereotypes of what someone will be like based on appearances alone with first-hand knowledge of what someone is like based on shared experience. The compulsion to be the same is thus reduced and urbanity is supported.