Sex and the Subject of Law in the National Archives of Iran


Jairan Gahan


January 11, 2024


In the historiography of modern Iran, legal archives are under-explored. Yet they are extremely rich sources that offer insight into the lifeworlds of marginal subjects, who exist at the threshold of the legitimate space of citizenship. This presentation centers the constructed archival category of “sex-related crimes” to raise questions about the processes of the production of archives – in particular legal archives – and what a critical approach to archives can offer scholars. Following Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s call to attend to the processes of the production of history – to moments of creating, assembling, and retrieving historical facts – I investigate the legal consciousness of courtrooms as well as that of the archives. Which subjects and experiences do legal archives make possible and visible, and which ones do they erode? In this presentation I further demonstrate that legal archives provide rich historical data that facilitate historiography from below, specifically to uncover how lay and ordinary people navigated the law.



Jairan Gahan is Executive Director of the Canadian Society for Iranian and Persian Studies. Previously she was assistant professor of History and Islam at the University of Alberta. She earned her PhD in Religious Studies concentrating on the many convergences and divergences between Islamic ideas and ideals and those of the modern world with an eye on women’s histories.