Accepted paper:

The plenitude of presence: techniques and recognitions of value in a Syrian market


Paul Anderson (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores conceptions, techniques and ways of recognising plenitude among Syrian traders in Aleppo in 2008-09. It contributes to the ethnographic project of documenting the diverse ways in which people have conceived of, and in the practices of their lives recognised, value.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores conceptions and techniques of plenitude among Syrian traders in Aleppo before the current conflict, in 2008-09. Plenitude in Aleppo's markets was conceived of in terms of ongoing moral presence. The moral presence of benevolent persons (God and ancestors) was felt as good (economic) fortune. Conversely, the ultimate value was to produce oneself as an ongoing moral presence, by being remembered well. These conceptions and techniques of plenitude structured social life. I would describe how Syrian traders in Aleppo sought to produce these moral presences, in the course of their commercial practice and broader social life. I would also argue that much of the business of trade involved fashioning social relations - through accounting, display and ritual speech - into arenas of recognition where moral presence and absence could be enacted and acknowledged.

panel P21
Invisible hands: alternate modes of prosperity, wealth and well-being