The formal side of informality: non-state trading practices and local Uyghur ethnography

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This article approaches ‘informal’ modes of organization among Uyghur bazaar traders in Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan in a complex context of increasing state regulatory measures and strong social networks. It captures this organization as a ‘formal side of informality’. The practices comprising it are deemed ‘informal’ from a state-centred perspective, as they are not regulated by the state law or bureaucracy, but they still display a non-state formalization in the sense of being codified, regular and predictable to the traders. The article explores areas and examples of such ‘informal’ formality in the bazaar trade that are built around notions of morality, piousness, pride and shame. It pays special attention to oral contracts, purchase on credit, go-betweens and the status of profit. The article draws on participant observation and interviews in Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan as well as on descriptions of trade morals and trade customs in ethnographic and folkloristic publications by local Uyghur scholars in Xinjiang.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCentral Asian Survey
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)46-62
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 203286158