First regulated as gambling, even as similar practices abroad were formalized in private exchanges and consolidated in boards of trade, vernacular futures trading in India foregrounds speculation as a problem of law and governing. This essay addresses the colonial management of vernacular speculative activities in a period of global financialization, demonstrating how market engagements with uncertainty that were previously criminalized were slowly folded into legality and governance. It illuminates a range of informal, localized practices participating in global financial flows and deploys the colonial context as an analytical lever to pose broader questions concerning the legibility and translation of speculation as both an illicit outside and a complicit inside of the market. Charting key shifts in the two decades before 1947, it maps the governmentalization of speculation by colonial authorities and vernacular capitalists, a process that informs histories of and dynamics across the colonial rule of law, the idea of informality, and neoliberal thought.

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