South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Social Obligations of the Kachchhi Commercial Firms

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Marigold, New Building

Writing on the idea of social disaggregation Engseng Ho argues that “disaggregation enables mobility.” Connecting mobility with the trans-regional discourse, Ho emphasizes the “dense network of social relations across the ocean, between regions” and “the horizontal patterns of circulation.” Taking up this thematic understanding, my paper will unearth the dense, layered social networks of the Kachchhi commercial firms in the trans-regional spaces of Muscat and Zanzibar. It will chiefly demonstrate how affluent business firms, influenced by customary obligations, promoted a novice social system in their mercantile world. Undoubtedly, these merchants were status conscious, for their rise to economic prominence ensured status in their community. But the same status encouraged and made them morally accountable in honoring community responsibility or obligations. In turn, this status also kindled in merchant apprentices a desire to match the status and accomplishments of their mentors.
    Such men of commerce across the Indian Ocean functioned within the domain of social customs and business practices. Business practices aided entrepreneurial links of reciprocity. To understand the importance of the South Asian entrepreneurial ethos which is often lost to stereotypes of being undependable, unscrupulous and usurious, these features of business and enterprise need to be addressed. Consequently, my paper will also explain how underrated South Asian enterprising groups effectively and profitably operated and meshed in the presence of competing Euro-American firms. Their success was powered by community dynamics, networks of trust and social obligation, which contributed to the construction of social—as well as economic—opportunities.

Chhaya Goswami

Somaiya College, India

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2 - Social Obligations of the Kachchhi Commercial Firms



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