Arzoo Osanloo, LAPA Fellow; University of Washington

Humanity and Forgiveness in Islamic Criminal Sanctioning in Iran

Date: 
Mon, 04/16/2012
Location: 
4:30 - 6:00 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall


We hope you will join us for a LAPA Seminar with Arzoo Osanloo, Associate Professor at the University of Washington’s Law, Societies and Justice Program, to discuss "Humanity and Forgiveness in Islamic Criminal Sanctioning in Iran."  The commentator is Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.  The topic and paper will be available soon.

Abstract:  "The Iranian penal code allows victims' families to forgive an offender by granting a legal exception (gozasht) to mitigate or sometimes rescind the retributive component of punishment in numerous crimes, including murder. Through an ethnographic study of the criminal sanctioning process, including the legal exception provision, this project aims to bring to light some of the social and personal issues affecting families' decisions to forgive in murder cases. Alongside the considerations of individual forgiveness, this project explores a somewhat recent rise in activism around forgiveness. In light of the political and legal constraints on rights-based political action in Iran today, this activism, I suggest, centers around discourses of 'humanity' rather than 'human rights,' thus focusing on social and familial connections as opposed to reliance solely on state recognition of individual rights. This framework of activism, moreover, is amenable to the sanctioning system that grants the power of determining whether an offender lives or dies to the family of the victim and not the state."

Arzoo Osanloo is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington’s Law, Societies, and Justice Program. In addition, she holds adjunct positions in the School of Law, and the Departments of Anthropology, Comparative Religion, Near East Languages and Civilization and Women’s Studies. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. She has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford and a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law. Formerly an immigration and asylum/refugee attorney, Professor Osanloo conducts research and teaches courses focusing on the intersection of law and culture, including human rights, refugee rights and identity, and women’s rights in Muslim societies. Her geographical focus is on the Middle East, especially Iran. Her book, The Politics of Women’s Rights in Iran (2009), is published by Princeton University Press and she has published in anthropology and interdisciplinary journals. She is currently working on a new project that considers the Islamic mandate of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy in Iran’s criminal sanctioning system, jurisprudential scholarship and everyday acts among pious Muslims.

Didier Fassin is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study.  Didier Fassin is an anthropologist and a sociologist who has conducted field studies in Senegal, Ecuador, South Africa, and France. Trained as a physician in internal medicine and public health, he dedicated his early research to medical anthropology, illuminating important issues about the AIDS epidemic, social inequalities in health, and the changing landscape of global health. More recently, he has developed a new domain of inquiry he terms "political and moral anthropology," analyzing the reformulation of injustice and violence as suffering and trauma, the expansion of an international humanitarian government, and the contradictions in the contemporary politics of life. His present project, a contribution to an anthropology of the state, explores the political and moral treatment of disadvantaged groups, including immigrants and refugees, through an ethnography of police, justice, and prison.