Retail Socialities in Modern South Asia

Date: 10-11 December 202

Convenors: Sebastian Schwecke & Samprati Pani

About the workshop:

Retail has frequently been treated as an afterthought of commerce, the last leg in a process of exchange and circulation that has already been predetermined by the long chain of stages a product has passed before it enters the final stage. Considering that retail has been one of the largest employers, especially of the urban workforce in India, the neglect of studies on the retail socialities is particularly glaring, whether it is from a perspective of work processes, capital–labour relations, development, everyday life, livelihoods or geographies.

Retail is a distinctive and significant component in the exchange process. Defined by the interface with the consumer, communication and informational flows in retail practices are particularly attuned to the emergence and production of distinct socialities. The importance of this interface rests on its functional role and shapes spatial articulations and aesthetics, operational modes, and socially embedded norms of markets. But the logic and implications of this interface extend beyond the instrumental in shaping forms of leisure, entertainment, and even vice.

The participants at this workshop will study cross-selections of commercial arenas—the mall, the bazaar, the hypermarket and the department store—to develop a broader understanding of retail socialities and the way they influence life in modern South Asia. The workshop will engage with developments across regional divides, ranging from the high colonial era to the present, and combine the study of commerce, work, communication, leisure, entertainment and urban spatialities. Reflecting on the variegated histories of retail in South Asia, the participants will engage with the commonly held binaries that dissect retail socialities—stall vs shop, bazaar vs haat vs market, ‘modern’ vs ‘traditional’ market forms, ’formality’ vs ‘informality’, haggling vs ‘fixed price’. The workshop is aimed at highlighting the extent to which such distinctions fail to establish discrete categories in meaningful ways and discussing how a focus on retail socialities can contribute to the conceptualization of South Asian markets.

Cite this blog post
IBO Team (2023, July 4). Retail Socialities in Modern South Asia. Max Weber Stiftung India Office (MWF Delhi). Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

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