Marketplaces have long provided a context for observing the negotiation of everyday life amid broader processes of social and economic transformation. A growing scholarship has debated the relationship between markets and capitalist modes of production in Africa. However, less attention has been paid to the changing moral dimensions of economic life within popular urban marketplaces. This article examines the moral economy of a central marketplace in Kampala, Uganda, through an analysis of a rare archive: the records of the market disciplinary committee. We show that market vendors have responded to the expansion of market economy in Kampala by invoking principles derived from the past, including the obligation to ‘feed’ others. Rather than an abstracted market economy, disputes in the market were interpreted in the context of an embedded market society in which value is placed on livelihood facilitation. These findings advance the burgeoning literature on capitalism in Africa by demonstrating the ways in which neoliberal norms and values are situated within a broader moral landscape that places limits on what can be exchanged with whom.
- informal economy
- moral economy