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School of Geography

Leon Tellez Contreras Leon Tellez Contreras

Contact details

School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Project title

Trader Organisations and Traditional Urban Markets: The Political Production of Public Services and Public Spaces

Project overview

Traditional retail markets are still an important part of the urban life, and within their four walls we can find a dense structured social life that interconnects tens, hundreds, and even thousands of traders. In this complex environment, trader organisations play an essential role solving problems and negotiating conflicts within the market; but not only, they also become political actors that participate in the production of urban space.

My project is focused on the trader organisations dynamics, particularly on how they co-produce the social order that keeps markets working every day. Regarding the vital role markets play in the city—notwithstanding their decline and poor infrastructural condition—trader organisations participate in the urban politics by producing and reproducing the markets under local and global changing circumstances. By doing so, they influence the meanings and practices of what we understand by public service and public space, which are two crucial contested notions in contemporary urban life. In this sense, I am interested in looking at the internal organisational conditions of the trader organisations, the relationships they establish with other urban actors, and their political commitment to co-produce the markets and the city.

The analysis of these three aspects demands to pay attention to the organisations’ views on different issues, especially now that traditional retail markets are experiencing sound changes around the world and the place these organisations used to have in the urban politics is changing. Given the characteristics of this scenario, shaped under the logics of neoliberal urban reforms, I pose some questions on how trader organisations are deploying their traditional popular politics in the city and participating in a political arena where different and often contradictory projects about the future of the markets as public service and public space are in dispute.


The aim of this project is to shed light on the socio-political production of traditional urban markets by studying the commercial and political organisations that bring together the stallholders. To approach these groups and learn about their structure, functions, interests, and projects is an opportunity to study a social actor that has established its presence in the urban context by influencing the urban food distribution system, our consumption habits, our experience of the neighbourhoods, the production of the city, and the meanings of public services and public spaces. By studying these commercial organisations from their socio-political flank, I emphasise their relevance as actors that shape the urban politics by turning the markets into political arenas and into disputed goods. In this sense, the research aims to contribute to the growing interest on the transformation of urban markets by asking this main questionː How do trader organisations co-participate with other social actors in the production and reproduction of traditional urban markets as public spaces and public services?


Sara Gonzalez

David Bell

Research Affiliations

Cities and Social Justice


CONACyT (Mexico)

Research publications


"Mexico City Indoor Markets and Traders: Ordinary Urban Politics and Economic Geographies." XV Symposium of Mexican Studies and Students in the UK. Durham University. July 12, 2017.

"Traders and Markets: Representations." WRDTC/P 6th Annual Conference. University of Sheffield. June 29, 2017.

"Trader Organisations and Traditional Urban Markets: The Political Production of Public Services and Public Spaces." Geography Postgraduate Research Conference. School of Geography, University of Leeds. May 16, 2017.

"Trader Organisations and Traditional Urban Markets: The Political Production of Public Services and Public Spaces." RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University. April 21, 2017.

“Aproximaciones al cambio en los mercados públicos urbanos.” International Research Training Group (IRTG) Between Spaces. Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalization. CIESAS, Mexico. September 22, 2016.

“Mercados públicos en la ciudad neoliberal. La elitización de un servicio público”. International Conference From Contested Cities to Global Urban Justice. Critical Dialogues. July 4-7, 2016.

“El ‘viejo’ San Juan Moyotla. Dos proyectos de barrio en el contexto de la revitalización del Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México.” IV Congreso Latinoamericano de Antropología. Mexico City. October 7, 2015.


2016. Visiting Research Assistant. School of Geography, University of Leeds. Contested_Cities. March 1st to July 30th.

2013. Visiting Researcher. International Research Training Group “Between Spaces. Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalization.” Institute for Latin American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. April 18 to August 2.

2016. Contested_Cities scholarship.

2013. Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) scholarship for research abroad.

2011-2013. Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) MA funding.

Short Curriculum Vitae


Research Networks