Exploring Marketplaces as Social Justice Instruments for Cities: A comparative case study across Global North and South

PhD researcher
Patricia Schappo
PhD student
Planning, people and place, Urban inequalities and social justice
Patricia's research investigates the potential of marketplaces as settings of multipurpose urban development.

Supervised by Dr Melanie Lombard and Dr Glyn Williams.

Marketplaces have historically played a fundamental role as commercial and meeting locations in cities around the world. However, due to the strong competition with supermarkets and the lack of recognition of their importance by governments, they have experienced increasing decline.

Typical marketplaces have varied levels of importance for different global regions and urban populations. Notwithstanding, regardless of where, the most disadvantaged urban groups are the ones benefiting the most from markets’ existence, reason why their presence in increasingly exclusionary cities is so relevant. Previous research indicates that traditional trading spaces have meaningful potential for just urban development. As inclusive spaces and providers of economic and social opportunities, markets can be elements mobilised by governments aiming more social justice at local scale. Social justice is understood as more urban equity, democratically promoted in the support for vulnerable groups, where diversity is respected, and inclusion is realised.

My research investigates the potential of marketplaces as settings of multipurpose urban development, asking to what extent they can enhance cities’ conditions, in the direction of achieving greater urban equity and social justice through income-generation opportunities and stronger social capital, particularly among vulnerable communities. In support of this, it examines how ‘aware’ municipalities are of markets’ broader functions, and how this links to the ways in which their development is facilitated or hindered by (local) government plans; and in particular, how local governments can invest in markets for cooperative economic and social opportunities. This is quite significant since petty trading oftentimes constitutes employment alternatives for disadvantaged urban groups.

To contemplate the contextual influence on marketplaces’ functioning trends and enlarge the knowledge outcomes, data collection is performed in Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and Birmingham (UK). The research is an ethnographically informed qualitative study, across the ‘Global North’ and ‘South’ and it is inspired by postcolonial comparisons.

I am Brazilian and I got my BSc degree in Architecture and Planning from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) in 2013. During my studies and after graduating I worked for some architecture firms, in Brazil and in the Netherlands. Inspired by the experience abroad and led by the interest in following an academic path, I completed in 2015 a MSc in Human Geography at the Radboud University (Nijmegen/ Netherlands). The opportunity was funded by an Orange Tulip scholarship.

Between 2015 and 2017 I completed a double degree MSc (Mundus Urbano), with titles in International Cooperation in Urban Development and in International Cooperation Sustainable and Emergency Architecture. I studied at the Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany) and at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Barcelona/ Spain). My position was fully sponsored by a European Union scholarship. Following an internship at Oxfam Intermón, I started the PhD in the University of Sheffield.

Besides the mentioned above, I worked in support roles to research, teaching and administrative duties in university departments. And importantly, as an intern in the Municipality of The Hague, occasion in which I started studying marketplaces. Furthermore, I was engaged for over ten years in voluntary work and activities in low-income communities in the south of Brazil.

You can find the article "The governance of public market spaces in Belo Horizonte", submitted to the 2nd International Workshop on Contested Territories in the following link.

Moreover, you can find a publication about my previous work on the theme of marketplaces, covering the case of The Hague Market, in the following link. Its title is "Meeting on the marketplace: on the integrative potential of The Hague Market".