Civility and diplomacy: trust and dissimulation in transnational Afghan trading networks

Marsden, Magnus (2018) Civility and diplomacy: trust and dissimulation in transnational Afghan trading networks. Anthropological Theory, 18 (2-3). pp. 175-197. ISSN 1463-4996

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This article explores the relationship between civility and diplomacy in the transnational commercial activities of traders from Afghanistan. The commodity traders on which the article focuses – most of whom are involved in the export and wholesale of commodities made in China - form long-distance networks that criss-cross multiple parts of Asia and are rooted in multiple trading nodes across the region, including the Chinese commercial city of Yiwu, Moscow, and Odessa. Much scholarship associates both diplomacy and civility with impression management and dissimulation and therefore identifies such modes of behaviour as being inimical to the fashioning of enduring ties of trust. Analysis of ethnographic material concerning the traders’ understandings of being diplomatic as well as the ways in which they seek to conform to contested local notions of civility, however, furnishes unique insights into the ways in which they build the social relationships and ties of trust on which their commercial activities depend. By exploring the interrelationship between civility and diplomacy, the article seeks to move anthropological debate beyond the question of whether civility is either a form of artifice premised on performance or a deeper ethical virtue in and of itself. It suggests, rather, the extent to which ambiguity, ambivalence, contradiction, and imperfection are an inbuilt aspect of the ways in which respect is communicated and evaluated, and ties of trust fashioned and maintained.

Keywords: civility, diplomacy, trade, trading networks, Afghanistan, commerce, trust, dissimulation

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Asia
Depositing User: Magnus Marsden
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2018 09:28
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 14:50

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Trust, Global Traders and Cheap Commodities in a Chinese International City (TRODITIES)G1723EUROPEAN UNION669132