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In the realm of anthropology, markets are not merely viewed as places for economic exchange but are considered as complex sociocultural systems that are deeply intertwined with local societies, cultures, and politics [1]. In the broadest sense, markets can be categorized into three key types based on their operational characteristics – temporary, peripheral, and permanent.

In the realm of anthropology, markets are not merely viewed as places for economic exchange but are considered as complex sociocultural systems that are deeply intertwined with local societies, cultures, and politics.

Temporary Markets

Temporary markets, also referred to as “pop-up markets” or “periodic markets,” emerge for short durations and typically operate on specific days of the week or during particular seasons. They are commonly found in both rural and urban contexts around the world.

Characteristics of Temporary Markets

  • They are transient in nature with no fixed physical infrastructure.
  • They often have an element of festivity attached to them [2].
  • They offer a variety of products, usually including local produce, arts, and crafts.

Social Role and Impact

Temporary markets are not just economic platforms; they are also spaces for social interaction, cultural exchange, and community building [3]. They often reflect local traditions and societal norms and can provide vital insights into the dynamics of local economies and cultures.

Peripheral Markets

Peripheral markets, often situated at the outskirts or margins of urban centers, play a crucial role in connecting rural producers with urban consumers.

Characteristics of Peripheral Markets

  • They often operate daily but have limited hours.
  • They usually deal in fresh produce, livestock, and low-cost goods.
  • They act as crucial links between rural and urban economies [4].

Social Role and Impact

Peripheral markets provide livelihood opportunities for small-scale rural producers and traders. They also serve as sites for social interaction among diverse groups of people, thus fostering a sense of community. Furthermore, they can offer anthropologists a lens to examine urban-rural dynamics and societal changes.

Permanent Markets

Permanent markets refer to markets that operate regularly and have a fixed location and infrastructure. They are typically located in the heart of cities or towns and deal in a wide range of goods and services.

Characteristics of Permanent Markets

  • They have a fixed location and permanent infrastructure.
  • They offer a wide range of goods and services, including food, clothing, household items, and more.
  • They operate on a regular basis, usually daily.

Social Role and Impact

Permanent markets often serve as important economic hubs in urban centers. They reflect the socioeconomic structures of society and provide a space for social and cultural interactions. They can also serve as significant symbols of local identity and heritage.

Comparative Analysis of Market Types

OperationTransientLimited hoursRegular
LocationVariesOutskirtsCity/town center
GoodsLocal produce, arts, craftsFresh produce, livestockWide range
Social RoleCultural exchange, community buildingLink between rural and urban economiesSocioeconomic hubs

Case Studies in Different Societies

Temporary Market: Floating Markets in Thailand

Floating markets in Thailand provide an interesting example of temporary markets. These markets, set up on boats in rivers, operate during specific hours and days. Not only do they offer an array of local produce and goods, but they also act as significant tourist attractions, encapsulating the local Thai culture. They exemplify the blending of economic, cultural, and tourism activities in a single space.

Peripheral Market: Sabzi Mandi in India

Sabzi Mandi, the large vegetable and fruit markets located on the outskirts of most Indian cities, epitomizes peripheral markets. These markets, usually bustling in the early morning hours, connect rural producers with urban consumers, facilitating the daily supply of fresh produce to the cities. Their role in sustaining urban-rural dynamics is a significant aspect of the Indian economy.

Permanent Market: Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan

Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, often referred to as the “world’s largest fish market,” is a perfect example of a permanent market[3]. This market, a labyrinth of seafood shops, provides daily seafood supplies to Tokyo and beyond. The market’s distinct culture, with its unique auction system and the social organization of sellers and buyers, offers anthropologists intriguing insights into Japanese society.

Anthropological Perspectives on Markets

Different anthropological theories provide varying perspectives on these markets. The functionalist approach emphasizes the economic function of markets in meeting the needs of society. The structuralist perspective views markets as part of the larger social structure, reflecting societal hierarchies and relations. The culturalist approach focuses on the cultural meanings, traditions, and practices embedded within markets.


Anthropology’s lens brings forth a richer understanding of markets beyond their economic functions. It underlines the myriad ways in which markets, whether temporary, peripheral, or permanent, intersect with society, culture, and politics. Studying these market types enables anthropologists to glean nuanced insights into social structures, economic dynamics, cultural practices, and societal transformations.


[1] Appadurai, A. (1986). The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511819582

[2] Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books.

[3] Bestor, T. (2004). Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World. University of California Press.

[4] Skinner, G.W. (1964). Marketing and social structure in rural China. Journal of Asian Studies.

Anthropologist Vasundhra - Author and Anthroholic

Vasundhra, an anthropologist, embarks on a captivating journey to decode the enigmatic tapestry of human society. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, she unravels the intricacies of social phenomena, immersing herself in the lived experiences of diverse cultures. Armed with an unwavering passion for understanding the very essence of our existence, Vasundhra fearlessly navigates the labyrinth of genetic and social complexities that shape our collective identity. Her recent publication unveils the story of the Ancient DNA field, illuminating the pervasive global North-South divide. With an irresistible blend of eloquence and scientific rigor, Vasundhra effortlessly captivates audiences, transporting them to the frontiers of anthropological exploration.

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