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Department of Social Anthropology


Senior Research Seminar with Dr Paul Anderson (University of Cambridge)

Exchange Ideologies and Merchant Politics in Post-Baathist Syria


Drawing on the notion of language ideology from sociolinguistics, this paper proposes the study of “exchange ideologies” as a lens on processes of social identification and differentiation among elite merchants in Aleppo during the first decade of Bashar al-Asad’s rule (2000-2010). Economic anthropologists have long studied the capacities of various kinds of material and immaterial exchange to create and define groups, and relationships between groups, but have paid less attention to metapragmatic discourse and orders of indexicality – the ways in which individuals reflect and comment on their exchange practices, and use them to construct group boundaries and identities. Sociolinguists, by contrast, have developed sophisticated tools for understanding the links between language, identity and social differentiation; but they have tended to view language and linguistic exchange in isolation from other kinds of exchange. This paper seeks to bridge the two fields, arguing that for Aleppo’s merchants, trade and speech were not separate fields of practice, but part of a spectrum of modes of exchange that could be used interchangeably to index social identities. 

Friday, 7 May, 2021 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation