ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Hartal-markets and mobilization


Saraf Aditi - Utrecht University, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht, Netherlands


25 – Thinking with markets: Practices and codes of engagement in South Asian economic milieus


 In this paper, I examine political mobilization and activism undertaken by traders’ collectives in the Kashmir valley. I focus specifically on the hartal/strike/shutdown that constituted the principal political mode of protest in the movement for self-determination. The hartal invoked religious and economic moralities to suspend market transactions and frame political demands, intersecting temporally with both official and insurgent calendars while collaborating with political actors drawn from multiple networks. In the work of organizing meetings, building consensus and mobilizing crowds, the role of traders’ historical expertise in forms of “brokering” is shown to be crucial even as the distinction between economic and political work becomes blurred. Drawing on fieldwork from 2012 and 2013, I show how the hartal becomes a rallying idea addressed to present, concrete and local grievances while keeping within sight the temporal horizon of promised/future self –determination. Following on this, the bazaar emerges as a field that is not only multiply linked to society but also autonomous, internally differentiated and stratified, and capable of calling upon deeply embedded connections in order to direct action in a coherent manner.