In the second half of the 19th century, Afghanistan’s borders were fixed. The Afghan state then had to learn how to police them. This paper offers a history of the travel permit, known across the region as rahdari, to explore how the Afghan rulers mastered the art of governing mobility. The travel permit was an ancient instrument of identification and policing across the Islamic world, but rulers in Afghanistan did not enforce it with consistency. In the last decade of the century, this paper argues, the Afghan state’s war on the Hazaras changed that. The war on this religious minority created a large wave of refugees who tried to escape to India, Persia, and Russian Turkistan. The state did not want them to leave the country. The road guards and border police used the travel permit—now issued in print form—to hunt Hazara refugees and determine who was free to travel and who was not. This documentary identification regime helped the young Afghan state territorialize its authority and taught it how to police people on the road, especially the refugees, the runaways, and the fugitives.
The categories of private and public space have always been discussed in urban research, notably related to cities in the Arab world (Wippel et al. 2014, Cummings, van Richthofen & Babar 2019). The Sultanate of Oman has seen rapid modernization due to the sudden gift of oil and gas revenues with major effects on the transformation of urban spaces (Nebel, Scholz 2014). In the everyday life of urban Omani in Muscat, public and private space are increasingly being renegotiated. Spatial practices reveal that the division between private and public is becoming more complex. Simultaneously, the steady expansion of public space enables new stages and consequently encounters in urban settings that challenge previously unquestioned paths of social belongingness and (national) identity. This opens up the following research questions: How do young urban Omani negotiate publicness and situational identity in place and time?
In its Vision 2040, the Omani government defines its economic, political, and social goals - while addressing in particular young nationals. The sultanate is aiming for greater international exposure to meet the growing pressure of youth unemployment through diversification of the economy (e. g. by strengthening tourism). And yet, Oman is still in the process of nation-building (Cummings 2019 in: Lenze, Schriwer). Many young Omani are guided by family-centered structures, especially when it comes to marriage. However, they have grown up in an ever more modernizing country, witnessing transformations that allowed them to become more mobile and globally exposed (e. g. due to studies abroad, the use of social media).
In everyday urban life, encounters take place regardless of family affiliation, origin, or citizenship, resulting in situational identity references.
The frictions arising in this context indicate social change and will be critically analyzed in the proposed paper. The findings are based on an in-depth qualitative empirical research during several field visits between 2019-2023.
Beyond Westphalia and after Foucault: Stateless Power in the Armenian Diaspora
In the century after the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, new Armenian diasporic communities emerged in the Arab world, France, the US, and Argentina. Like the already existing Iranian-Armenian diaspora, each evolved separately and locally. But over time, transnational contact between clergy, community leaders, intellectuals, philanthropic organizations and political groups led to the emergence of an elite discourse and practice, first of exilic nationalism and then diasporic transnationalism, evinced collective actions. This talk will explore the emergence of first Middle Eastern and then other Armenian diasporic communities as polities in which the advent of individual agency among survivors and refugees was later marshalled by elite discourse and practices into heterogeneous forms of collective power. Ultimately, these forms achieved critical mass and produced “stateless power” that operates within the interstices of sovereign state power. Crucially, diasporic stateless power does not suicidally challenge the sovereign state’s power and authority; the prohibitive, punitive, and coercive power of the State abides. Nevertheless, in all but the most totalitarian contexts, diasporic Armenian communities learned to self-organize and self-administer and began to elicit, regulate and direct certain commitments, practices and behaviors from their members, developing new discourses and practices of politics and wielding real if bounded powers. This talk will chart the emergence of the overlapping practices of diasporic stateless power. We note that depending on diasporic place and time, this kind of power is compatible with some and quite different from other categories and definitions of power as elaborated by Weber, Dahl, Polsby, Foucault, Gaventa, Lukes and others.
Scholars have examined the Iranian postrevolutionary Friday prayer focusing on the “political” nature of the sermons, where the most critical policy decisions of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been proclaimed. However, less attention has been paid to the “social” and “spatial” impact of the Friday prayer. This paper tracks the transformation of the Friday prayer after the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, focusing on its pivotal role in directing public opinion. The paper argues that postrevolutionary Friday prayer functioned as a multidimensional phenomenon that, although Friday prayers are the first articulation of it, its most significant function was creating a “public”: a pious-revolutionary public.
The paper first shows how the Islamic Republic recalibrated the Friday prayer into a public venue to represent its constituency as “the public” and render those not in attendance as subordinate in the first decade after the revolution. It shows how Friday prayers were structured around a space capable of generating an audience autonomously through deliberation and intersubjectivity in the context of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and through ancillary mechanisms for which delivered speeches, produced opinions, wrote articles, published books, and broadcast radio and TV shows. It also demonstrates how, through sermons and the physical arrangements of Friday prayers, “strangers” were encouraged to see themselves as part of a non-biological family of brothers and sisters bonded together by revolutionary Islam rather than familial, kinship, or local identities. Then, the paper discusses a gradual eclipse of the Friday prayer as a discursive arena in forming and transforming its audience that coincided with the social, political, and economic transformations of the 1990s’ postwar period. With the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the government’s developmentalist agenda pushed for economic liberalizations and political reforms. The paper argues that the discrepancy between these socioeconomic transformations and the ideological and discursive limitations of the Friday prayers in addressing Iranians laid the groundwork for the decline of the Friday prayer. At the same time, this situation contributed to the emergence of “multiple publics,” such as mystical gatherings, popular religious gatherings, religious intellectuals’ preaching, and voluntary organizations.
In the proposed paper, I explore the impact of sex segregation and mandatory hijab policies on gendered based violence in Iranian society since the establishment of the Islamic state in 1979. Through analyzing related cultural productions and secondary studies, I argue that these policies have contributed to the prevalence of sexual harassment and interpersonal violence by objectifying and devaluing women's bodies and linking masculinity with violence. The state's hijab propaganda has changed the conversation away from religious practice and toward the male libido, depicting Iranian men as sexually virile and blaming women for male sexual violence, which both justifies and condones masculine sexual aggressiveness.
How can one link psychology/ psychoanalysis and post-colonialism? More specifically how can one link psycho colonialism and psycho nationalism in North Africa? The theoretical foundation of such interlocking goes back to the work of Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism in 1959, which concedes that colonialism breeds psychopathology. Edward Said has also helped our grasp of these intersections through his idea of the “Orient” as a topos of the Western academic fantasies. Since the publication of Foucault’s groundbreaking thesis, Histoire de la folie in 1961 postcolonial scholars have begun to excavate this dimension of medical/pathological history by examining social, political, technological, and professional aspects of psychiatry and collective/ institutional psychology. Psycho-nationalism underscores the latent and manifest psycho historic processes and mythologies (i.e., violence, depersonalization, stereotyping etc.) by which a nation state is carved out, sustained and reimagined to its citizenry.
My aim in this paper is to deploy this problematic combination to discuss the perpetuation of “psychotic” operations within the post-colonial state in North Africa. More precisely I investigate the historic interconnectedness between the geopolitical condition created by the French encroachment in Algeria since 1830, and then by the postcolonial establishment of the Arab Maghreb Union in 1989. These accumulations represent a psychological field where the anti-colonial discourse of the postcolonial state is subliminally disconnected from the reality of national culture(s) and their embryonic shattering.
My argument depends on the premise that psycho-colonialism and psycho-nationalism infect the geopolitical spaces between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. On this account, I take the national mythology of martyrdom, cartography (i.e., adopting colonial borders and maps) and the national policy of over militarization as examples of how psycho nationalism breeds a postcolonial psychopathology that sustains the retardation of mental decolonization in the Maghreb. My analytical critique is based on an interdisciplinary treatment of psycho-colonization and psycho nationalism which includes drawing on postcolonial theory (Fanon, Said, Spivak), contemporary political philosophy (Anderson, Hobsbawn), and the French historical archives (i.e.., colonial maps of 1830 and 1954-1963).
I ultimately argue that the movements of psycho-(post)-colonialism and psycho nationalism are what (re)structurate an endemic remission of this project of the Maghreb union, the prospect of reconciliation and national healing. Psycho nationalistic structures and its narratives have emerged to deepen sentiments of nationalistic affiliation and hegemonic exclusionary emotions geared towards contempt and violence. Such psychological dismemberment continues to persist as a permanent state of a colonizing disunity within the Maghreb’s geopolitical dynamics.