Borough Check: The Oracles of Post-Colonial Funk

One could say that Arles is a city that exists without age. Perhaps a realm that is best characterized by change, mixture, transition, and assimilation. When I began my course on Immigration in France, I became very aware of the demographics of the communities that I visited. Most importantly, I remembered that from my research on France’s 17th and 18th century Code Noir, and Mexico’s Sistema de Castas, the idea, formation, and application  of "race" was certainly a social construction. I live in a small community that is located near the Rue de la Roquette, a neighbor hood that is referred to as "Bo-Bo" in France, meaning Bourgeois-Boheme (Middle Class & Bohemian). This is a very multiethnic community, and you hear very many languages walking through its narrow alleyways. I never felt like there was any racial hostility in this neighborhood, however I did witness the manifestations of post-colonial and historical frustrations during Saturday’s Market Day. As I left my house and walked into the draping shadows and colorful tents of the Market, the only language that I heard was Arabic. I was a little bothered by this, because I wasn’t even into the "heart" of the street yet where the majority of the vendors are located. After walking the entire length of the market, I realized that all of the expensive goods were sold by French-speaking vendors of European ancestry. On the outskirts of the market, in the less frequented areas, you would find only North and Sub-Saharan African vendors. Furthermore, after speaking with my sociology professor, I was told that he believes that the  market is spatially segregated by several factors: (1) Post-colonial history, (2) Community support, (3) Type of Merchandise. It seems as if all three of these factors contribute to the spatial make-up of the market. Many of the North African and Sub-Saharan African vendors may be close to each other because they want to support their community (cooperative economics), because they sell similar products.

Another possible reason that my professor gave for the segregation, was Post-Colonial history. Most of the communities of North and Sub-Saharan African descent come from former French colonies. It is believed that there may be some hostilities toward these vendors, stemming from deep-seated anger caused by colonial wars of independence. Of course, this is all a possibility. You would have to experience the dynamics of the market to truly understand. In order to obtain a spot at the market, you pay an annual fee, based on the dimensions of your tent or cart. There is one person that decides where people are placed. Sounds peculiar to me.  Food for thought!


Ryan Forbes Morris ’08


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2 Responses to Borough Check: The Oracles of Post-Colonial Funk

  1. george pope says:

    So Ryan
    Will tou have an opportunity to interview vendors in these markets? Now that your there you can and maybe shoud put books aside. Can you get small money for translators..if they all speak Arabic, Wolof etc? If you talk nice you may not need to even pay for that. Make friends in the market you might learn a lot from them..get them to invite you into their homes, let their hair down, lay it out for you. etc. Don’t forget African markets are often very highly segregated – or better- “structured” by commodity and product. In Ghana this often ties ties back to tribe and of course language. etc.

  2. Susan Cantrell --Kane House says:

    Twenty-sour years ago some friends and I ate one of the most delicious meals we have ever tasted at the Hotel Jules Caesar in Arles.
    Do yourself a big favor: Go there and try an omelette and indulge in pine nut tart for dessert. I promise you will still remember it 24 years from now.
    Your reports are fine. Bonne chance!
    Mrs. Susan Cantrell