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Dr Paul Anderson

Moralities of the Market: Merchants, Islam and Ethics in Pre-Conflict Aleppo; A New Silk Road? Mercantile Connections across Asia
Dr Paul Anderson

University Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies

Assistant Director, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies


Office Phone: 01223 335145

Biography:

Dr Paul Anderson is the Prince Alwaleed Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, the Assistant Director of the University’s Prince Alwaleed Centre of Islamic Studies, and a Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge. Dr Anderson is a social anthropologist interested in the articulation of economic, moral and religious life. His research has a particular focus on Islam, value, moral personhood and the sociality of trade. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Syria and China, and is currently part of an ERC-funded research project studying the global trade in low-grade Chinese commodities. He is also working on a monograph of Aleppo as a trading city before the outbreak of the current conflict in Syria. At the University of Cambridge, he teaches courses and supervises research on the anthropology of the Middle East, and the anthropology of Islam.

Subject groups/Research projects

Arabic & Persian Studies:

Research Interests

Moralities of the Market: Merchants, Islam and Ethics in Pre-Conflict Aleppo 

This project explores the moral and social dynamics of trade in the city of Aleppo, then Syria’s commercial hub, before the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in 2011. It starts from the assumption that Aleppo was not simply a second city to Damascus, nor a site of political opposition to the Baathist regime, but had been fashioned by Aleppo’s merchant families into a dynamic node in an expansive Asian economy, connected to markets in China, central Asia, the Gulf and beyond. As well as identifying these connections, this project seeks to describe the local understandings of economy, value and circulation in which trade in Aleppo was embedded. Drawing on fifteen months of fieldwork in Syria, conducted in 2008-09, this project explores the forms of value, dynamics of trust, and notions of moral personhood, that underpinned trade in Aleppo’s wholesale and retail suqs and textile factories in this period.

A New Silk Road? Mercantile Connections across Asia

Another strand of my current work aims to describe the dynamics of long-distance trading networks connecting China to markets in West Asia and Arabic-speaking countries. It is part of a European Research Council-funded project, led by Professor Magnus Marsden, entitled ‘Trust, Global Traders, and Commodities in a Chinese International City’, documenting the trading networks and activities centred on the city of Yiwu in south east China. The focus of this work, which is also supported by the Centre of Islamic Studies, is on the history of trading routes between China and the Arab world, the social dynamics and identities, and forms of trust/mistrust underpinning these long-distance trading networks.

Aleppo in China, China in Aleppo: Seminar, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, 31 May 2017

www.ames.cam.ac.uk/news-events/eas/china-research-seminar/posters/chinaresearchseminar20170531.pdf

“A New Silk Road?” Festival of Ideas talk, University of Cambridge, 22 October 2016

http://www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk/events/fully-booked-new-silk-road

“How Syrian merchants negotiate identity and difference in extraordinary times”: Global Muslim Encounters Conference, Centre for Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge, 9-10 December 2016.

http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/26819

“Wartime transformations of Yiwu-Syria  connections: a preliminary account”: Presentation at the TRODITIES research workshop, University of Copenhagen, 20 January 2017.

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/global/research/researchprojects/yiwu/newsandevents

Other Professional Activities

I currently supervise the following PhD projects:

Philip Rushworth: Hospitality and Citizenship among Syrian refugees in Germany

Melissa Gatter: NGOs and memory practices in a Syrian refugee camp

Shahla Suleiman: Arabic Language, Faith and Identity among British Muslim Converts

William Ryle-Hodges: Muhammad Abduh’s notion of adab: Reformulating Social Virtues in Late Nineteenth-Century Egypt

 

Key Publications

2013       ‘The Politics of Scorn in Syria and the Agency of Narrated Involvement’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 19(3): 463-481).

2011       ‘‘The Piety of the Gift’: Selfhood and Sociality in the Egyptian Mosque Movement’, Anthropological Theory 11(1):1-19.

2008       ‘Is Altruism Possible?’ Royal Anthropological Institute Hocart Prize Essay. Link to PDF attached

2013       ‘The Politics of Scorn in Syria and the Agency of Narrated Involvement’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 19(3): 463-481

2013       ‘Aleppo’s Yarn Market: Trust and Speculation in a Time of Economic Transformation’, in Jean-Claude David, Thierry Boissière (éd.), Alep et ses territoires. Fabrique et politique d'une ville, 1868 - 2011, Beyrouth, Presses de l'Ifpo, 2014. Pages 333-350.

2013        ‘Money and Commerce in Aleppo: the success and failure of a businessman in Aleppo, 1980s-2009’, with T.Boissiere, in Jean-Claude David, Thierry Boissière (éd.), Alep et ses territoires. Fabrique et politique d'une ville, 1868 - 2011, Beyrouth, Presses de l'Ifpo, 2013. Pages 351-368.

2013    ‘Leaving room for failure: optimism in the thought of Mohamed Talbi’, in Cambridge in Morocco: Perspectives on Middle Eastern Studies. Rabat: Editions et Impression Bouregreg

2011       ‘‘The Piety of the Gift’: Selfhood and Sociality in the Egyptian Mosque Movement’, Anthropological Theory 11(1):1-19.

2008       ‘Is Altruism Possible?’ Royal Anthropological Institute Hocart Prize Essay. Available at: http://www.san.ed.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/15269/080519-altruism_article.pdf

2008    Conducting fieldwork in the Middle East. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 35(2): 151-172. With Yasir Suleiman.

See more here (link to PDF)

 

Other Publications

Anderson, P. and Hargreaves, J. (eds) 2016. Muslims in the UK and Europe III. Cambridge Centre of Islamic Studies.

Suleiman, Y. and Anderson, P. (eds) 2015. Muslims in the UK and Europe II. Cambridge Centre of Islamic Studies.