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Book cover: Research in Economic Anthropology

Research in Economic Anthropology

ISSN: 0190-1281
Series editor(s): Dr. Donald Wood

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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“I bought this at eastern market”: Vending, value, and social relations in an urban street market


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Title:“I bought this at eastern market”: Vending, value, and social relations in an urban street market
Author(s):Robert J. Shepherd
Volume:29 Editor(s): Donald C. Wood ISBN: 978-1-84855-542-6 eISBN: 978-1-84855-543-3
Citation:Robert J. Shepherd (2009), “I bought this at eastern market”: Vending, value, and social relations in an urban street market, in Donald C. Wood (ed.) Economic Development, Integration, and Morality in Asia and the Americas (Research in Economic Anthropology, Volume 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.381-406
DOI:10.1108/S0190-1281(2009)0000029016 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:This chapter examines the selling practices of street vendors at a popular weekend market in Washington, DC. I discuss the role of social and moral norms in vendors' behavior toward one another, customers, and their work. Vendor success in this marketplace over the long term is influenced not only by their products and sales skills, but also by their understanding and acceptance of an ethical framework partly shaped by stories they tell about each other. As such, this study illustrates the embedded nature of sellers in marketplaces, as opposed to theoretical notions of how abstract individuals are supposed to act in a decontextualized “market.” Furthermore, stories that arise from encounters between vendors and customers add value to the products people buy. Objects in this marketplace, then, gain value not only through the interaction of supply and demand, but also through buyer and seller interaction, which provides a narrative base for future communication.

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