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Title: Brokers of Order: How Money Moves in Wartime Syria
Authors: Guran, Gozde
Advisors: Zelizer, Viviana A.
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: conflict
informal markets
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation interrogates the organization of economic exchange during periods of profound crisis, and considers the effects of these economic activities on social and political order. It specifically examines the institution of hawala, an informal money transfer system that emerged as the primary channel for sending money into, out of, and across Syria during its post-2011 civil war. I explain how this system survived and even flourished during this protracted conflict, providing a vital economic service for diverse actors like refugees remitting money to their families, NGOs funding relief programs, and traders and smugglers moving goods across borders. In doing so, I elucidate mechanisms that allow informal institutions to adapt to crisis situations. The study is based on eighteen months of fieldwork in Lebanon and Turkey, including a multi-sited ethnography, 115 interviews with brokers, customers, and other market actors, and a field experiment examining pricing patterns in hawala transactions. I argue that hawala’s adaptability and resilience stemmed from the internal diversity of the trust ties that formed its networks and the multiplicity of monies that travelled through them. Specifically, brokers performed elaborate relational work, both with each other and with their customers, which allowed them to build networks based on diverse forms of trust and to draw in different types of money. I show, first, that brokers built networks around two primary types of trust – rooted pre-war trust ties and new trust ties cultivated in exile – which allowed them to scale up their operations while still relying on inter-personal trust to enforce commitments. Second, I find that brokers adapt their services to meet the diverse needs and expectations of different types of customers (e.g., refugees and NGOs). This relational work allows brokers to draw in flows of money going into and out of Syria, which brokers match to avoid having to engage in risky physical settlements of debt. Finally, the study demonstrates not only how brokers manage to navigate the challenges of conflict, but also how, in doing so, they effectively broker a broader sense of order and stability for those who have endured the hardships of war and exile.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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