Exchange Ideologies: Commerce and Social Differentiation in Preconflict Aleppo

Key information

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
SOAS Main Building

About this event

Drawing on the notion of language ideology from sociolinguistics, this paper proposes the study of “exchange ideologies” as a lens on processes of social identification and differentiation among elite merchants in Aleppo during the first decade of Bashar al-Assad’s rule (2000-2010). Economic anthropologists have long studied the capacities of various kinds of material and immaterial exchange to create and define groups, and relationships between groups, but have paid less attention to metapragmatic discourse and orders of indexicality – the ways in which individuals reflect and comment on their exchange practices, and use them to construct group boundaries and identities. Sociolinguists, by contrast, have developed sophisticated tools for understanding the links between language, identity and social differentiation; but they have tended to view language and linguistic exchange in isolation from other kinds of exchange. This paper seeks to bridge the two fields, arguing that for Aleppo’s merchants, trade and speech were not separate fields of practice, but part of a spectrum of modes of exchange that could be used interchangeably to index social identities.

About the speaker

Dr Paul Anderson is the Prince Alwaleed Senior Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, the Acting Director of the University’s Prince Alwaleed Centre of Islamic Studies, and a Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge. Dr Anderson is a social anthropologist interested in the articulation of economic, moral and political life. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Syria, China, Turkey and the UAE. His book, "Exchange Ideologies: Commerce, Language and Patriarchy in Pre-conflict Aleppo" (Cornell University Press) will be available from 3 April 2023.


This event will take place in-person and will not be recorded. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please complete this form to register.

Chair: Narguess Farzad (SOAS)

Organiser: SOAS Middle East Institute