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The marketplaces of made-in-China goods in Cairo and Oran: globalisation and transformation of the consumption spaces, landscapes and practices

Abstract : Since the early 1990s, large shopping centres have soared in the suburbs of the major North African cities, reflecting the spread of globalised consumption patterns to the wealthiest social groups of these rapidly changing societies (Abaza 2006; Troin 2010; Assaf 2017). Although less emblematic and conspicuous, globalisation has nonetheless also reached the consumption places of the working and middle classes. In particular, the urban souks (markets), the so-called "traditional" form of urban trade (Mermier and Peraldi 2010), have undergone substantial change due to the ever-increasing inflow of made-in-China goods since the late 1990s (Choplin and Pliez 2015; Belguidoum and Pliez 2015). This is the case of the al-Muski district, located in the heart of the ancient city of Cairo in Egypt, and of Medina J'dida, or the "New Town" in English, a sub-central district of Oran, Algeria. These market districts, combining wholesale and retail trade with storage areas, have become the main gateways of transnational trade between North Africa and South-East Asia since the end of the 1990s. They provide the urban lower and middle-income groups – a clientele often referred to as the “market of the poor” or the “bottom-of-the-pyramid market” (Prahalad and Hart 2002) –, with small commodity products such as trinkets and other knick-knacks, clothes, shoes, or cooking utensils, mostly originally produced locally but now replaced by imported Asian products. Based on the results of ethnographic and comparative research conducted between 2011 and 2014 (Bouhali 2016), my communication aims at showing that these popular shopping districts are not only synonymous with immutable and supposedly traditional modes of consumption, as opposed to the malls found in chic and modern neighbourhoods. On the contrary, through the consumption of made-in-China goods, either standardised or adapted to the local taste, low- and middle-class consumers in Cairo and Oran are also affected by globalisation. It is not only products that are imported into these urban marketplaces, but with them, cultural patterns, landscapes and practices of globalised consumption, as well as new approaches to the commercial city.
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Submitted on : Monday, April 8, 2019 - 2:44:50 PM
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Anne Bouhali. The marketplaces of made-in-China goods in Cairo and Oran: globalisation and transformation of the consumption spaces, landscapes and practices. RGS/IBG Annual International Conference, Aug 2018, Cardiff, United Kingdom. ⟨halshs-02092823⟩



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