23 Mar 2019

Business, Biradari, Blood: Mediating relationships in the Kashmiri marketplace

Paper presentation at Association for Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Meeting , Denver, CO, March 21–24, 2019. Panel title: “Inhabiting the “In-Between: Gendered Mediation Practices in South Asia”

Aditi Saraf


The bazaars in Indian occupied Kashmir where I conducted fieldwork are strikingly dominated by male traders who mediate multiple commodities, services and forms of valuation. In this paper, I engage with liminal relationships of fieldwork, friendship and pedagogy that I forged with a few women who worked in the marketplace. Compelled to take over commercial establishments because of the contingencies of war and death, these women straddled and navigated difficult boundaries between family and firm, gendered norms and profit-seeking in the marketplace. Bearing in mind the dubiousness of categories that presume a separation between commercial and social relations, my paper tracks the different ways in which women deployed and subverted kinship categories of wife, widow, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, and mother with different actors in the bazaar to exert control over commercial decision-making in difficult contexts of war, rivalry and male hostility. While the use of kinship tropes for the management of antagonism in the marketplace is a well-recorded strategy, I show how women refigured them creatively to upend age and gender hierarchies, question religious orthodoxy, refigure codes of conduct and manage conflict between warring factions in a bitterly polarizing conflict.

Highland Asia Research Group
LMU, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oettingenstr. 67
80538 Munich, Germany
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