Abstract

Abstract:

This article adopts a spatially grounded approach to the study of everyday urban crime involving ruffians (lutis), seminarians, and sayyids (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad). It begins by considering the types of crimes and punishments prevalent in Qajar Iran before examining the spatial exceptions to the operation of law in the form of sanctuaries (bast). It then explores exceptional circumstances under which crime and violence went unpunished, such as largescale mobilizations involving powerful urban notables. Conflicts over Islamic endowment resources, embedded spatially in shrines and mosques, pitted neighborhoods against one another, with the state playing the role of a mediator and trying to manage social conflict. Raids into Jewish quarters reflected spatially structured conflicts, as well, because the appropriation of economic resources was at stake. Much like sanctuaries, Jewish quarters had an exceptional spatial status since violence, pillage, and plunder could occur there with relative impunity during specific historical moments. This article then analyzes the economic activities of lutis, who were often part of extortion rackets as a supplementary or primary form of employment. The article ends by considering the social biography of a well-known luti whose life exemplifies how lutis faced state sanction when engaged in petty crimes but acted with impunity when operating as part of a powerful vertical social network. I argue that the daily patterns of violence involving marginal groups revolved around access to the resources of the specific aforementioned spaces and that sanctuaries created opportunities for these marginal groups to evade the implementation of the law.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 1185-1211
Launched on MUSE
2019-06-07
Open Access
No
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