While there have been scores of studies on particular street markets, this Working Group is concerned with a set of questions that have not been explored systematically: What are the impacts of cultural diversity on the nature and operation of street markets, and what are the implications of street markets for cultural diversity? Do street markets play a role in the process whereby people learn to coexist across ethnocultural differences, or does participation in markets have no influence on intergroup relationships beyond brief moments of interaction – or might they even have a negative influence? How do everyday encounters in markets contribute to (or undermine) this learning process? When people from different backgrounds get along in markets, is this indicative of larger social processes of civility or are these encounters specific and somehow exceptional? In short, in societies of complex diversity, do everyday encounters in street markets contribute to tolerance and mutual respect between groups, or does the fact that people from different backgrounds meet and interact in street markets have little significance for intergroup attitudes and relations?

Thinking about this issue from the opposite direction, how does increasing ethnocultural diversity contribute to the opportunity structures that underlie street markets and the economy more generally? Certainly ethnocultural diversity expands the range of products available to consumers. In this sense, diversity also brings new types of highly specialised entrepreneurs and, with them, jobs. That is, street markets can be seen as the point where diversity becomes part of the fabric of the economy and sets new tastes in motion.