University of Sussex
Magnus Marsden is Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the Asia Centre at the University of Sussex. He has conducted long term field research in adjacent parts of South and Central Asia with a focus on the role played by religious, political, and commercial networks in the region’s integration into global dynamics. Having focused on the impact of reformist Islamic teachings on the everyday lives of Muslims in northern Pakistan, he then initiated a study of Afghan trading networks, initially focusing on the role these played in cross-border relations between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, and then expanding the scope of his study to Eurasia and West Asia. He is currently the PI of a European Research Council Advanced Grant that is exploring the status of Yiwu – an international trade city in China’s Zhejiang Province – as a node in the global trade of low-cost commodities. His most recent monograph is Trading Worlds: Afghan Merchants across Modern Frontiers (New York: OUP, 2016).
「 Afghan Networks and Circulations in and beyond Eurasia 」
This paper will explore the insights that a consideration of Afghan traders operating in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang Province offer into understanding the shifting dynamics of trans-Eurasian trade. Simultaneously tracking the movement of commercial personnel, commodities and capital across a vast geographical expanse that stretches between China’s eastern seaboard and the Black Seaport of Odessa, the paper will identify significant junctures in the consolidation of Afghan trading networks across Eurasia over the past fifty years. From the role these merchants played in forging routes between China and Russia in the early 1990s to their ‘discovery’ of the city of Yiwu’s potential significance as a node for their activities in the late 1990s, and their more recent decision to invest profits made in Russia and Ukraine into business and industry in China, Afghan traders have collectively accumulated substantial knowledge of the Eurasian arena. The paper will reflect specifically on what a consideration of such networks stands to offer into understanding long term changes and continuities in the importance of middleman groups to the conduct of overland trade, addressing in particular the question of whether or not Islamicate Eurasia’s status as an arena of circulation and exchange is as vanished a phenomenon as some recent historical work has suggested. The paper builds on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with traders from Afghanistan over the past 15 years.