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Abstract Abstract This paper examines how participation in smuggling restructures existing commercial regulatory systems and subjectivities. It does so through an analysis of the illicit commercial practices that mushroomed in postrevolutionary Iran and the ambivalent participation of established merchants bazaaris in the import and export of commodities through these circuits during the — era. Following two independent research projects on the Tehran and Qum bazaars, we adopt a multidisciplinary and relational approach to bazaars and smuggling to decipher the multiple logics.
This process is assembled through networks of established bazaaris, new commercial actors, far-flung transnational buyers and diverse state officials, who both regulate trade and facilitate exchanges that are at times interpreted as smuggling by the participants themselves. The postrevolutionary Iranian regime is a case that challenges us to examine this quasi-formal economy in the context of an institutionalized and centralized state that has adopted both state-led and neoliberal economic policies.
It also forces us to situate the phenomenon of smuggling within the context of existing commercial networks and moral orders. Despite being a wholesaler in Tehran, his involvement in the networks of relations of the Qum bazaar was limited to indirect and sporadic engagements.
These clerics had placed agents in key posts in the Ministry of Commerce, and he was thereby able to acquire a much-coveted export license. He exported a limited number of carpets through legal channels, in part to promote his credentials and social standing as an exporter.
Later that night, however, he was stopped by police and taken in for questioning. He soon revealed to the police where they would find merchants who were hiding carpets and also provided the times and locations of their future transactions.
In a display of state power, the agents responded quickly, setting up roadblocks at various locations around Qum and Tehran. He was told not to travel to Qum, even to visit his elderly mother.
He was shunned by other businessmen and headed to the Caspian Sea region in Northern Iran. He remained there until the members of the newly formed carpet merchant professional association ittihadiyyih allowed him to return to Qum in Erami, Erami, N.
The soul of the market: Knowledge, authority and the making of expert merchants in the Persian rug bazar. Columbia University, New York. View all notes This evocative ethnographic account introduces the complex operations of commerce in postrevolutionary Iran, most notably the expansion and regularization of what is defined and described as smuggling. It demonstrates that commodities travel through official and illicit channels while depending on liminal spaces and a mixture of regulatory practices.
In this case, the Qum bazaaris felt the need to take radical and collective action to distance themselves from someone who had dishonored the bazaari community despite being important for individual commercial gain. In short, despite the attempt to keep them as distinct moral categories, neither the bazaari nor the smuggler nor the state agent can be examined in isolation from one another.
The relationship between these divergent forces was not a direct confrontation, but an ambivalent and unstable encounter Roitman, Roitman, J. An anthropology of economic regulation in Central Africa. How do the processes of smuggling and the status of extra-legal activity influence economic relationships in a changing Iran, including how bazaaris experience and imagine the regime and the bazaar?
Finally, if smuggling is illicit and a challenge to the state, what does smuggling do to and for the state and state—bazaar relations, which were born out of a revolution that was profoundly supported by the mercantile community Parsa, Parsa, M.
Social origins of the Iranian revolution. States, ideologies, and social revolutions. How do bazaaris justify their actions and interpret the conditions that have led them to smuggle?
While acknowledging that smuggling has a wide range of political-economic features and consequences, this paper ponders the effect of illicit trade on the structure of the bazaar, understood in relational terms rather than as a reified structure, and bazaari subjectivity and political subjectification of individual merchants.
This paper argues that the practice of smuggling affects the nature of interpersonal relations among bazaaris as well as the spatial and institutional location of exchange and regulation of commercial activities in Iran. Consequently, the self-understandings of bazaaris and the sense of obligation owed to one another are redefined, or displaced. Drawing on two separate but complementary research projects on the postrevolutionary Qum and Tehran bazaars, we demonstrate how and why the widespread and persistent nature of extra-legal forms of commerce physically relocated commercial networks, while making them more arms-length and less socially embedded spatially.
The persistence of smuggling and the role of individual bazaaris and state agents produced distrust within the bazaar and between bazaaris and the Iranian state. This paper reveals how and why this often contested and beleaguered territory was expressed and experienced at the level of the individual and collective category of the bazaar.
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The Iranian revolution ushered in an ostensibly new pro-bazaari regime described in the scholarship Adelkhah, Adelkhah, F. Being modern in Iran J. Class, politics and ideology in the Iranian revolution. Yet this apparently bazaari-inclined new regime did not fashion an economy solely constructed out of the pre-existing commercial networks. In particular, this paper is the product of the synthesis of two independent research projects by an anthropologist and a political scientist.
Narges Erami, an anthropologist, conducted extensive field research on carpet producers in Qum in — In the process of analyzing the production of knowledge and the specialization of a vocation carpet production , interviews and participant observations led Erami to discover the centrality of smuggling in the carpet trade and the profound moral anxieties and social tensions that ensued. Meanwhile, in the process of examining the political economy and mobilization capacity of the Tehran bazaar under the Pahlavi monarchy and Islamic Republic, Arang Keshavarzian also discovered the importance of smuggling and informality in the postrevolutionary era.
During a series of research visits from —, Keshavarzian, a political scientist by training, conducted interviews, engaged in participant observation and analysed newspaper archives to examine the dynamics of smuggling. Thus, this paper marries independent yet compatible findings from multiple sites in order to marshal greater and more diverse evidence, 2 2 The diversity is not only due to the larger number of interviewees, interviews and time spent as participant observer, but also produced by the different identities, backgrounds and approaches of the two researchers.
View all notes consider variations due to differences in location and commodity, and integrate scales and forms of analysis associated with distinct fields in the social sciences.
This collaboration was productive and essential in the same manner that the commercial partnerships elaborated here have been, even in that they have been disorienting to us and are not without moments of prickly exchange.
Our joint enterprise has resulted in a narrative that is not wholly ethnographic, yet marshals long-term and intimate knowledge of commerce in Iran in order to dialogue with a broad readership and set of questions that would have been less feasible if the paper was not co-authored.
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The blending of methodologies and the synthesis of field research hopefully engender greater confidence in our findings and arguments about an intrinsically opaque topic that crosses the material and moral dichotomy.
To do so we first had to devise a relational approach to bazaars and smuggling that speaks to multiple disciplines. Conceptualizing the bazaar The research projects on the two bazaars were united by an emphasis on their dynamic nature, the central role played by social space and morphology, and the heterogeneity of roles and hierarchies rather than the apparent structural cohesion of the bazaaris as a class, mentality or traditional form.
We adopt a conceptualization of the bazaar that taps into approaches to markets within economic sociology, and posit embedded networks, rather than atomized exchange partners or generalized cultures, as the building block of economies Granovetter, Granovetter, M. Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91 3 , — Bazaars are bounded spaces containing a series of socially embedded networks that are the mechanism for the exchange of specific commodities.
Economic action has non-economic motives e. Moreover, informal practices and institutions, which are neither codified nor administered by third parties e. As participants in a community, bazaaris have obligations to others within this order Keshavarzian, Keshavarzian, A. Bazaar and state in Iran: The politics at the Tehran marketplace.
Islam, the people, and the state: Political ideas and movements in the Middle East. The pattern of socio-economic relations, meanwhile, may take different formations — that is, not all bazaars are organized in the same manner at all times, and not all sectors within bazaars are constituted by the same form of networks. Firstly, members of the bazaar may interact over time and with the expectation that credit and commercial relations will be long-standing, or exchanges may be more sporadic and take place without expectations and commitments for future dealings.
Multi-faceted relations refer to ties between buyers and sellers that are not purely economic, but where exchange partners are also kin, neighbours or members of the same social organizations. Conversely, single-faceted or socially shallow relations are those that enjoy exclusively one type of relationship, such as purely economic interaction e. Finally, we must differentiate between groups whose networks are bridged by various horizontal relations and those that have fewer such interactions.
In the latter case, hierarchies of relations are parallel to one another, with the bazaar or the sector constituted out of distinct and isolated clusters. Given this conceptualization of Iranian marketplaces we will argue that the participation of bazaaris in smuggling transformed the networks of the bazaar from being ones marked by long-term, multi-faceted and cross-cutting dynamics to interpersonal relations becoming more short-term and single-faceted interactions with fewer horizontal relations bridging the various commercial networks.
The Tehran and Qum bazaars of the late Pahlavi era — were very much the quintessential embedded economy. Social, spatial, religious and familial forces were inseparable from the economic sphere, and relations tended to be long-term and even multigenerational. The disparate social, kinship and economic dynamics during this period helped make a whole out of the heterogeneous and large collection of traders and transactions that constituted the bazaar. Moreover, economic practices, such as the use of promissory notes and brokers, not only helped facilitate exchange but resulted in complex, prolonged sets of expectations with a large number of merchants across guilds Rotblat, Rotblat, H.
Social organization and development in an Iranian provincial bazaar. Economic and Cultural Change, 23 2 , — Peasant and bazaar marketing systems as distinct types. Anthropological Quarterly, 41 4 , — What cemented co-operation, trust and reciprocity among bazaaris were the social networks that underwrote many of the economic transactions by evaluating reputation, ensuring future interactions, broadening the realms of deal-making and bringing collective pressure to bear Fischer, Fischer, M.
From religious dispute to revolution. The bazaar as a case study of religion and social change. Religious symbolism and social change: The drama of Husain.
University of California Press. The distinctive sociability of the bazaar is predicated on its physical space and embedded mixed-use character.
Professions and sectors are contained in specific alleys or wings of the bazaar. Narrow alleys specializing in particular goods and open storefronts and offices allow passers-by, either customers or colleagues, to stop by easily to exchange news and gossip or to compare goods and prices.
The physical proximity of bazaaris and participation in various professional fora and modes of social intercourse generated a series of assets e.
Places in shadows, networks in transformation: Locating the public sphere in the Middle East and North Africa pp. Social Science Research Council. Territories, flows, and hierarchies in the global economy. Goodwill and the spirit of market capitalism.
British Journal of Sociology, 34 4 , — How neighbors settle disputes. Community, anarchy and liberty. View all notes Network structures have created multilayered bonds which have enabled bazaaris to play a leading organizational role in social movements and converted bazaars across Iran into a political space during episodes of unrest. Bazaaris in Tehran, Qum and other cities helped organize demonstrations and mass strikes, fund political initiatives and distribute information during the Constitutional Revolution — , the oil nationalization movement — , the anti-White Revolution movement June and the Islamic Revolution — Factionalism and political discourse in the Islamic Republic of Iran: