27 November 2013 – Market Day in Provence by Michèle de la Pradelle

26 November 2013

The anthropologist Michele de La Pradelle’s book – Market Day in Provence – first published to great acclaim in 1996, was translated into English by Amy Jacobs in 2006. It is well worth reading for the author’s wonderful description and insights into the traditional market system in France. In the Introduction, she writes:
‘Market society has no need of its street or stallholder markets. It has developed other forms of distribution that better satisfy its demand for rational efficiency and profit. And yet such markets persist (though there are fewer of them in some places than others). France’s ‘new cities’ clamor for them; planners see them as a way of preventing suburbs from becoming dormitory communities; and in the ill-defined ‘conurbations’ of the West Coast of North America there is a passion for these new ‘agoras’, which provide them at last with a center if not a past’.

The book provides a rich ethnographic study of the outdoor market in Carpentras, Provence including detailed insights into the lives of market traders, shoppers and their relations with each other and to the market produce on sale. It investigates how, as Jack Katz says in the Foreword, ‘we see what we want to see’ as the market artfully masks the economic concerns of market traders who are after all running small businesses, with their artistry and social skills – their market performance – used to engage market shoppers and tempt them to buy.


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