Speculation in India: Imaginaries of Indian economies – University of Copenhagen

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Speculation in India: Imaginaries of Indian economies


Abstract deadline (max. 200 words): 15 November 2012 to stinep@hum.ku.dk

Key-note Speaker: Prof. Arjun Appadurai 

Seminar abstract

Along with the narrative of the growth of Indian economy there is an increasing amount of speculation in India. Speculation on the one hand refers to an economic practice, in which a person invests money in futures markets through a calculation of probabilities. On the other hand, speculation can refer to a practice of knowledge production, in which available information is put together into a coherent representation of the future, and/or past and present.

In this seminar we wish to address both aspects of speculation, namely 1) speculation as a way of dealing with the uncertainty of the future through economic risk-taking, and 2) speculation, which concerns information gathering and imaginaries which are formative of time. The interrelationship between the two sides of speculation is captured in the relationship between economy and the production of knowledge.It is important to note, that despite the title, the seminar is not restricted to studies on practices of trading, hedging or wagering manifested in for example the futures markets of stock exchanges.

Rather, what is in focus are the imaginaries of the uncertain future, and the practices and devices used to attempting at calculating and taking advantage of the future. Whereas the focus is on the economic drive in the speculative practices, of as much interest are the social, cultural, moral and existential scales through which we can understand different aspects of speculations.

This seminar invites scholars of disciplines such as anthropology, history, sociology, indology and economics working with India, to present research on speculative practices and the dealing with uncertainty, in the present and past. This could be research taking its vantage point in places of economic exchanges, such as bazars or malls, households or international co-operations, gambling places or stock markets, caste councils or state institutions. The studies on speculative practices does not, however, have to involve an actual exchange of money, but can also lie in a discourse or law, which defines economy in particular ways, by setting up specific borders, values and time frames. In these frames, we explore the practice of multiple economies within India, rather than a single “Indian economy”, which might or might not have overlapping features.

In addition, informed by the specifics of Indian capitalism, we wish to address theoretical discussions related to risk, uncertainty and the future. Of interest is the question, whether the features of an Indian economic system and/or the imaginaries thereof, creates speculative tactics different from other settings. Or, whether there is a speculative ethos, which goes beyond local cosmologies, which however, are manifested in a unique way in an Indian setting. In this context, we may bring in the intersection between formal and informal economies, channels of information, technologies enabling speculation, and credit opportunities.

Organized by

Stine Simonsen Puri, Ph.D. Fellow, Center for Comparative Cultural Studies, in cooperation with Center for Global South Asian Studies at Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, UCPH.