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Trading on commission in Sri Lanka's wholesale scene

Heslop, Luke Alexander (2019) Trading on commission in Sri Lanka's wholesale scene. Ethnos, 84 (3). pp. 398-414. ISSN 0014-1844

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00141844.2018.1551911


Selling provides and arena in which notions of what could be considered ‘ethical’ come into correspondence. The putative meaning and order of the world outside the market seeps into the moment of sale, infused with ideas about religiosity, ethnicity, piety, masculinity and civic duty. This article analyses the moment of sale through the work of commission agents who sell to retailers on behalf of farmers in Sri Lanka's largest wholesale vegetable market. The commission agent is selling the livelihood of the farmers right in front of them and must mediate between buyer and seller in close proximity, maintaining effective social relations with both parties present. The article shows how existing social relations beyond the market are brought to bear on such a problematic moment of sale, but also, how the context of selling acts as a specific site of transmission and transposition. Through an ethnographic engagement with the act of selling, I demonstrate how traders stake out alternative forms of social interaction, reimagine their relationships, and take on ambiguous attitudes towards the ability to sell at all.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:54
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:38

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