Call for Abstracts for Open Panel for the Iranian Studies Conference, August 2020

Call for Abstracts for Open Panel for the Iranian Studies Conference, August 2020

Deadline: June 10, 2019

“Living Shar‘: History and Anthropology of Legal Praxis in Iran”

The relation between Islam and modern rule in Iran is subject to much debate. Aside from some scholarship that broadly frame Islam and modernity as antithetical, most scholars have consensus that an Islamic state has been in the making in Iran from the early modern period during the Safavid era (Salvatore 2018, Amanat 2018, Rahimi 2011). This panel aims at exploring (re)figurations of Islamic rule in Iran, through the prism of law, spanning the 19t​ h​ century to the present day.

Taking law as the cornerstone of any constitutional polity, this panel particularly seeks to tackle the shifting place of the Sharia in relation to statecraft ​and lawfare​, in order to explore possible avenues for intervention in the studies of Islamic law and modernity, from the vantage point of Iran’s experience. A major point of contention in the study of Islamic law is the relationship between the Sharia and changing political orders in the Muslim world. Schacht and Weber famously argued that Islamic law’s relation to the state is impractical and cannot account for social and political change across time (Fadel 2014). Hallaq (2014) argues that due to a presumed incommensurability between the moral project of the Sharia and that of positive law, a modern Islamic state is an oxymoronic term. This is while, Islamic jurists and charismatic ulama are at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s statecraft and a great deal of scholarship has traced the genealogies of the ​vilāyat-i faqih to a largely intellectual set of debates within Shi‘ism.

What has been overlooked in both scholarships on Iran as well as in Islamic law, however, are the microworkings of everyday sites of legal encounter, what Brinkley Messick (2018) has called “the Archive.” Instead of a narrow focus on normative texts and abstract legal debates about the place of the Sharia in statecraft, this panel invites submissions on the lived experiences and practices of law in Iran, what we might call “living ​shar‘.​”

We particularly invite papers with a focus on the following questions:

  • –  Convergences and the divergences of constitutional law and ​shar​‘
  • –  Informal adjudication processes


  • –  Effects of codification
  • –  Daily operations of courts
  • –  Shifting trial procedure systems
  • –  Professionalization of law and the emergence of secular lawyers and


  • –  Law, experimentation, and the Sharia
  • –  Practices of petitioning
  • –  Rights-based claims and how they frame the question of humanity in

    relation to law

  • –  Crime and punishment
  • –  Legal treatment of minority populations
  • –  The administration of law and the role of jurists within it
  • –  Law and Muslim subject formation
  • –  Family law
  • –  Questions about competing sovereignties of law and that of Sharia

    Across these themes, we welcome submissions that highlight what we might call “​living shar‘:​ the study of how ordinary subjects and citizens navigated, engaged, and experienced the law, through archival and ethnographic studies.

    The deadline to submit an abstract is June 10, 2019. Please contact if you would like to submit an abstract or have further inquiries about the panel.

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