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11th Annual Pakistan Conference

Friday, April 1, 2022
9:30am - 4pm

The conference will be hybrid. If you wish to participate remotely, please register here.

Traders are highly desirable cosmopolitan subjects yet their mobility, extensive spatial reach, and myriad networks of commodity movement frustrate the nation-state. As the Pakistani state aspires to forge relationships anew with its neighbors, particularly with China, new trading activities have emerged with these countries, and beyond, that create their own (asymmetrical) dependencies between populations and states. Such cross border, indeed transregional, connections complicate the relationship between economy and sovereignty. The ‘‘licit’’ and ‘‘illicit’’ cross-border flow of commodities continue to comprise the Pakistani state’s ability to control borders and exercises control in the realm of the economy. The traditional hawala networks of money transactions that are intimately entwined with trading networks have successfully evaded the law and transparency regulations. In the 11th UM-Pakistan Conference, we will explore the relationship between trading practices, economy, and sovereignty with a focus on Pakistan.

In this conference, we ask the following questions but are not limited to these: How can we understand trading networks that straddle over geographic, cultural, nation-state frontiers, and geographical barriers? How do trade networks shape mobility, economies and sovereignty in a globalized world? What role do traders play in facilitating and shaping state-to-state contact, yet frustrating the same attempts through ‘‘illicit’’ cross border movements? How do traders shape and organize markets above and below the state? Trading in high-risk areas demands protection both from the state and nonstate actors. How is the protection negotiated and enforced, and what sorts of networks are further drawn into the trading world to ensure peaceful business transactions? What kind of economic strategies are pursued by traders in volatile regions and in the conditions of increasing precarity? How can we conceptualize ‘‘smuggling’’ and other “illicit” trading activities with regard to the state and the “formal” and “informal” economy?

Moreover, we ask: How do traders perceive and shape the economy through (mis)trust, good life and work, and social investments? How do trade and economy become an object of (moral) critique and a matter of political action and mobilization? What kind of politics, sensibilities, and moralities emerge from trading practices and bazaars? How are the social and the political negotiated in the realm of the economy? How do traders shape the world economy and bazaars and in what ways do trading practices, nationalist imaginations, and politics intersect? How do traders retain older forms of mobility and associations and yet create new ones? What skills and repertoire are required of traders to negotiate with states and different actors across cultural and regional boundaries? How do trading networks shape and are being shaped by kinship, religiosity, and identity, etc.?

This conference is possible thanks to the support of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and the following units at the University of Michigan: Center for South Asian Studies, History, History of Art, the Rackham Graduate School, the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and the Residential College.


Title: Trade Networks, Economy, and Sovereignty 

09:30 AM


10:00 AM

Welcome and Introduction (Prof. Matthew Hull)

10:10 AM

Panel 1 (Chair, Prof. Matthew Hull)
Noman Baig Khaip: Trade Flows between Karachi and Dubai
Ping-hsiu Alice Lin Connectivity and Shifting Markets on Pakistan’s Borderlands

11:15 AM

Coffee Break

11:30 AM

Panel 2 (Chair, Prof. Farina Mir)
Hassan Karar Trade, Local Networks, and Sovereignty along the Karakoram Frontier, 1891-1969
Jason Neelis Early Trade and Transmission in the Upper Indus Transit Zone between South and Central Asia

12:30 PM


1:30 PM

Panel 3 (Chair, Prof. Will Glover)
Sheetal Chhabria Histories of Capitalism or Capitalists?
Umair Javed Formal Politics and Informal Commerce: The Bazaar in Urban Pakistan

2:30 PM

Coffee Break

2:45 PM

Aditi Saraf Trade Artifacts: mobility, sovereignty and the edges of empire

3:05 PM

Closing Remarks (Aditi Saraf)