‘We Are Both Diplomats and Traders’

Afghan Transregional Traders Across the Former Soviet Union

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
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  • 1 University of Sussex m.marsden@sussex.ac.uk
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Building on fieldwork with Afghan traders in the former Soviet Union, this article uses the idea of diplomacy to explore the skills and capacities that are central to the traders’ self-understandings and working lives. Of central concern is the way in which the traders often identify themselves as being ‘diplomats’. The expressions of the traders’ diplomatic skills take various forms of everyday practice, as well as material form in choices of clothing and in the design of their offices. In exploring these different markers of being diplomatic in the context of the activities of a long-distance trade network, it is suggested that anthropology needs to attend not only to the possibilities of using diplomacy as an analytical device, but also as an emic category that invests the lives of particular communities with meaning and significance.

Contributor Notes

Magnus Marsden is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex and Director of the Sussex Asia Centre. His books include Living Islam: Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Trading Worlds: Afghan Merchants across Modern Frontiers (Hurst, 2016). He is also co-author with Benjamin D. Hopkins of Fragments of the Afghan Frontier (Hurst, 2012).

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