Trade and gifts across the Sino-Kyrgyz border


Embedded rubber sandals: trade and gifts across the Sino-Kyrgyz border
Author: Rune Steenberg
CENTRAL ASIAN SURVEY, 2016, VOL. 35, NO. 3, 405-420

How does a group of Uyghur traders from a village in Atush (Xinjiang, China) end up with a stock of unsellable rubber sandals in Kadamjay (Batken, Kyrgyzstan), and why don’t they compete according to market principles? This article explores the social investments of the traders and their families, and reveals their behaviour to be rational, both economically and socially. It illuminates the business and daily life of Uyghur traders in southern Kyrgyzstan, an environment that is increasingly challenging and uncertain. The examination of exchange relations between their households explains why the traders cooperate as they do and also why they do not cooperate more. Economic rationales and social obligations prove to be mutually embedded. This insight expands and deepens a nascent analytical approach that recognizes social motivation for economic activities in Central Asia alongside undeniable economic incentives. This approach has much to gain from being more explicitly reconnected to classical anthropological theories of gift giving.


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