Speculation in Fixed Futures: An Ethnography of Betting in between Legal and Illegal Economies at the Delhi Racecourse

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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This Ph.D. thesis concerns betting in India. It is based on a long-term fieldwork at the Delhi racecourse and examines speculations behind the social and economic practices of betting on horse races. Speculation is understood as a method of profit seeking tied to interpretative methods on imprecise knowledge. These speculations are located in the context of an Indian economy, while parallels to global finance are drawn. The thesis follows a number of bettors in their daily life inside and outside the racecourse. Furthermore, it traces the development of various technologies central to betting. The thesis focuses on the history of horse racing in India, modes of prediction, friendships among bettors and bookmakers, the interpretation of and work with odds, and the coexistence of legal and illegal economies. The main argument of the study is that the Delhi racecourse is perceived as a site of deception, where a considerable amount of the races are being manipulated by jockeys, trainers, horse owners, race judges, and the mafia in order to extract money from the betting market. Betting is therefore oriented towards figuring out the hidden human intention clothed in economic transactions rather than the potentials of the horses. This interpretation of the racecourse generates complex market practices where the majority of the economy exists in illegal bookmaking, kickbacks, bribes and a market for insider information among people with little trust in each other and the procedures of the legal economy. The dissertation is situated within the field of economic anthropology, and by researching a yet unexamined field of study, it contributes with insight into layers of the Indian economy, as well as to the anthropology of gambling. Concurrently, the thesis creates synergy between anthropology of gambling and anthropology of finance in order to bring to light an approach to speculation as a form of profit seeking tied to a knowledge production that is oriented towards the unobservable and the concealed.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherKøbenhavns Universitet, Det Humanistiske Fakultet
Number of pages260
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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