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Durham University (2021)

The Fripe as Urban Economy : Market- and Space-Making in Tunis.


Titre : The Fripe as Urban Economy : Market- and Space-Making in Tunis.


Université de soutenance : Durham University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2021

“Fripe” is the term used to refer to a heterogeneous array of imported second-hand donations and fast-fashion cast-offs in Tunisia that are part of the global second-hand trade. This thesis builds an account of the fripe as a singular urban economy in Tunis, the capital city. Firstly, it comprises a hitherto unwritten analysis of the fripe’s historical constitution as a contested urban economy ; demonstrating its distinct political economy and constructing counter-histories of urban renewal that reveal the role of the fripe trade and its rural migrant constituencies in remaking post-independence Tunis. These histories expose the systems of differentiation that operate to exclude the fripe from formally delimited realms of ‘the national economy’ and ‘the planned urban order’, while also partially incorporating it into modes of government and city-making. Secondly, it investigates the entanglements of contemporary processes of market- and space-making that position the fripe economy as a central agent of urban change, as captured in the vernacular word creation “fripisation”. The ethnography of economic practices underpinning this investigation starts with the unstable commodity status of fripe imports, examining the situated processes of valuation that allow diverse garments and objects to enter renewed cycles of commodity circulation and exchange in Tunis. Centring on what is termed ‘valuation work’ by diverse market-makers in the fripe economy, emphasis lies on how the economy is enacted in urban space and becomes constitutive to socio-spatial relations. Three ‘collective enactments’ of fripe valuation demonstrate how the economy drives localised urban transformations ; creates interdependencies and rhythms connecting disparate actors and sites ; and allows the staging of temporary publicness. Overall, this thesis advances a perspective on the economy as operating through and as constitutive to urban space, positing the ‘urban economy’ as a tool to expand what can be brought to matter as economy in present-day cities.


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