Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture

The Life of the Law in the Islamic Republic of Iran

  • Prof. Reza Banakar
Date
2 February 2018
Time
Address
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
Room
A 144, Lorentz room

This study provides a snapshot of “the life of law” in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a glimpse of “law in action” from the vantage point of attorneys who are members of the Iranian Bar Association. Their daily experiences of working as lawyers and their accounts of the everyday struggles within the legal system are pieces of a puzzle, which once in place, will reveal the institutional practices that produce and reproduce the judicial order of the Islamic Republic over time. It also tells us a great deal about the power struggles within the Iranian society and the ongoing conflicts over its normative boundaries and future direction. This study will show that beyond the esoteric deliberations of Islamic jurists and their exegesis of criminal and private law doctrines, Iranian law lives a life of its own. It is a life of routine practices of judges, court clerks, lawyers and clients who are each striving to turn the law to their own advantage. It is also a life of contested legality, a relentless struggle over the right to determine the law in a juridical field which is infused with strife and hostility. These conflicts are reproduced daily as two competing conceptions of law and their corresponding perceptions of legality clash in pursuit of justice. The Iranian judiciary’s concept of law, their reconstruction of Islamic jurisprudence, and their methods of dispensing justice, which are on the surface reminiscent of Max Weber’s “qadi-justice,” clash with the legal profession’s formal rational understanding of the law. However, neither Iranian judges are Weberian qadis, nor the legal profession a homogenous group of attorneys driven by a collective commitment to the rule of law. To understand their conflict, we need to explore the mundane workings of the legal system in the context of the transformation of Iranian society and the unresolved disputes over the direction of its modernity.

Reza Banakar is Professor and Director of Research in the Sociology of Law Department at Lund University. He has previously held the positions of Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the Department of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of Westminster and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford. His recent publications include Driving Culture in Iran (I.B. Tauris, 2016), Normativity in Legal Sociology (Springer, 2015) and Law and Social Theory (Hart, 2013).