Can, Samil

Grad Status: 
Dissertation Writer

My research is on affects, embodiments and materialities of “indebtedness” among precarious Muslim traders in Old Delhi. In my two-year-long ethnography, I studied loan-borrowing networks and informal debt-conflict resolution among segregated and cash-scarce Muslim traders and shopkeepers in Delhi markets. My ethnography demonstrates that dynamic moralities and Islamic pieties of precarious Muslim traders’ market subjectivities involve enduring investments in the embodied and material pedagogies of mastering their body. Continuously deferring debts in cash-scarce exchange regimes, precarious traders had to pedagogically perfect visual, auditory and olfactory senses for “attuning to” the opportunities or dangers cast within the chaos of Central Delhi. And they had to cultivate embodied dispositions of piety, cunning, sacrifice and resilience to become “credible” in the eyes of a variety of “moral audiences” both morally, socially and commercially. Furthermore, I found out that precarious cash-scarce exchange regimes often cultivate and rely on invocations of vernacular sovereignty claims by these moral audiences (pirs, sheikhs, police, elders, etc.). Given those findings, I argue that the moral audiences I came across in this research are generated, negotiated and often circumvented by affective tropes of cultural vulnerabilities and personal anxieties of market subjectivities (e.g. blames, shames and resentments about caste, religion or race), which invoke pious obligations to vernacular sovereignties beyond the state and the market, and unevenly moralize indebtedness and economic exchange. My interests in affects, materialities and embodiments of “economy as a moral assemblage” rest on my previous studies in Political Science (BA), Philosophy (BA) and Sociology (MA) before Stanford.