Accepted paper:

Generating abundance through fish trading in Batang, northern Java


Katharina Schneider

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores northern Javanese fish traders’ imaginations and strategies of abundance. It traces out the dynamic interrelations of several traders’ contrasting imaginations, their theories and practices of generating abundance and the ethnographically particular market dynamics that emerge.

Paper long abstract:

The paper uses ethnographic observations at the fish auction place in Batang, northern Java, and Batang fish traders' descriptions and evaluations of their own and one another's business strategies for uncovering the contrasting but related imaginations and theories of abundance that different traders work with. It details how several traders employ a shared vocabulary of scarcity, the price mechanism and market failure to formulate contrasting accounts of challenges and success, fair and unfair practices, pure and impure incomes. The paper indicates various other sources of inspiration and histories of interpersonal relations in Batang that can help us understand how different imaginations of abundance and theories of achieving it are generated out of experiences, practices and knowledge that are shared to a significant extent. Finally, it aims to suggest how, in the almost daily interactions of the traders with each other and with fishers and buyers at the auction, a 'market' emerges whose dynamics differ significantly from those that the economic vocabulary used by the traders appears to point to. The case of Batang fish traders thus demonstrates a diversity of imaginations and ethnographically particular dynamics of abundance at work in a 'classical' market place, and suggests the need for further anthropological attention to abundance.

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