ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Slaves, Arms and Gold in the Arabian Sea

Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea by Johann Mathew, Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2016; pp XV + 248, £24.95.


This remarkable book combines rare conceptual imagination with rigorous and empirical scholarship. It is wonderfully written, with all the makings of a classic. It raises the real possibility of theorising the complex web of social and economic processes in areas generally seen as peripheral in the grand narrative frame of capitalist development. Thus, it is at once a vivid account of trafficking and illicit trade practices in the Arabian Sea and a story of the contested market boundaries that go on to constitute capitalism.

Tracking the story of slavery and human trafficking, arms trading and gold smuggling—each commodity seemingly embodying the horrors of unregulated enterprise—Johann Mathew puts forward a persuasive argument of how the history of each of these staples in the Arabian Sea trade was entangled with the history of capitalism and free trade. In developing this argument, he revisits categories of property, labour, and capital within the space of the ocean, where it is almost impossible to speak of either landed property, factories, or, indeed, territorial sovereignty.

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Updated On : 16th Mar, 2018
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