Florence, Italy’s Mercato Centrale and the open-air stands which surround it comprise a historic market in the historic center of a so-called “Museum City.” At the same time, the market is a dynamic field of social interaction that is becoming ever more culturally complex. In response to globalization and in the space of only a few decades the market has transformed from a condition of relative cultural homogeneity to one of striking heterogeneity. To work, shop, or live near the market today is to confront diversity on a continual basis. The arrival of large numbers of immigrant vendors over the past two decades has been a key factor in this change. In light of its transformation some stakeholders have sought to promote a new multicultural identity for the market. Others lament the decline of “florentine-ness” there. This paper draws upon the results of ethnographic observation and interviews to explore how some San Lorenzo vendors characterize different modalities of merchant comportment across subgroups. It examines how marketplace practices are both embedded in and affect local sociocultural forms. Merchant comportment is approached as a form of embodied cultural capital that figures importantly in ideas about marketplace order, disorder, and identity.
|Keywords:||Cultural Identities, Immigration, Social Change, Urban Marketplaces|
Professor of Anthropology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virgina, USA
Dept of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA
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