‘Almost Mahram’

Moments of Trust and Kinship in Iran

in Anthropology of the Middle East
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  • 1 University of Michigan–Dearborn wellmanr@umich.edu
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This article explores how an American anthropologist navigated the complicated rules of gender avoidance and veiling while living in the home of Iranian state supporters (or members of the Basij, Iran’s paramilitary organisation) in a provincial town in Fars Province. I argue that mahram is configured and activated not only by the dictums of Islamic law, but also according to contexts such as living circumstances, interpersonal trust and town politics. Mahram extends far beyond marriage exclusion: it is a matter of context and creation – the embodiment of mutual (dis)trust, piety and closeness. The recognition and practice of mahram is shifting, fluid and situational.