Dakar’s Market Imaginary: Mobility, Visuality, and the Creative Economy of Second Chances

Grabski, Joanna

My concern in this essay is with the concepts that produce the market imaginary in the city of Dakar, Senegal. In particular, this essay centers on a cluster of questions: how might we characterize something as intangible and abstract as the market imaginary in this particular city? How do the individuals involved in its imagining situate and articulate its relevance? And, how is the everyday social and visual experience of Dakar’s markets indicative and generative of the market imaginary? To pursue these questions, I focus on the themes of mobility, visuality, and the creative economy of second chances in relation to my research about two markets in Dakar. The first is Marché Colobane, a sprawling market for second hand goods located in a neighborhood many would describe as a slum; the second is Dakar’s art market, a multi-sited entity constituted by the transactions between artists and art world figures. Inscribed by the high and low of luxury and scarcity, each market’s spaces, propositions, and participants appear unambiguously asymmetrical at first glance. Yet, the visual and social practices of each market overlap and taken together they create a scope of inquiry that allows for analysis of markets as spaces that are embedded in neighborhoods, cities, and global commodity flows as much as they are productive of the imagination. In addressing markets and mobility, I consider how markets image mobility as normative while creating the conditions of possibility for movement. Markets are sites where people, objects and desires both converge and diverge. Furthermore, I consider how networks compose and articulate in the market to provide the logistical framework for mobility across many registers. The remainder of my essay elaborates on the creative economy of second chances for people, places, and objects. Underpinned by the recognition that the practices of remaking and everyday visual experience are vital to the imagination, I offer a theorization of visuality, speculation, and reinvention in relation to the market imaginary. I foreground the market’s multiple arrangements of objects and people in imaging a modality where reinvention is regularized in everyday visuality and the market imaginary. The propositions populating Marché Colobane and the art market emblematize the possibility of many forms of reinvention. Moving between analysis of these themes in relation to Marché Colobane and Dakar’s art market, I attend to the specific topography, spatial configurations, objects, and participants constituting each to theorize the market’s visual, social, and commercial spaces as productive of its notional space – the market imaginary. This essay theorizes the market’s relevance as transcending commercial inscriptions for it also generates and consolidates a market imaginary about many potential inclusions, circulations, and reinventions.

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Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East: Borderlines

More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Published Here
November 23, 2015