Ethnography of Witnessing and Ethnography as Witnessing: Topographies of Two Court Hearings

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4 Scopus citations


In this article, I attend to two forms of hearings (or nonhearings) in two distinctive courts of law, both involving the persecution of Iranian dissidents in the 1980s. Drawing on my ethnographic and archival research, inside and outside of Iran, I ponder the conditions of possibility of confessions/testimonies and their affects and after-lives. The first case involves the Islamic Republic's televised trials of a group of leftist prisoners. The second one is a symbolic court in The Hague, known as the Iran Tribunal, organized by some dissidents in diaspora, where witnesses testified against the Iranian regime. I meditate on the relationship between these two different spaces of the “law” in their differing milieus, and the divergent modes of speaking and hearing they render possible or impossible. I contemplate the kinds of ethical subjectivities they produce or shatter and reflect on the conditions and modes of speaking and hearing in relation to these topographies of coercive and sympathetic courts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-243
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical and Legal Anthropology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Iran
  • people's tribunals
  • revolution
  • testimony
  • witnessing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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