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minorities emigrated from Iran after the establishment of the Islamic

of noneconomic state institutions. Recently the Central Bank and the Ministry of
Economy and Finance have sought to centralize the licensing and supervision of all
¬nancial institutions. Hourcade and Khosrokhavar report that there were 1,300 in
1990 in Iran. Hourcade and Khosrokhavar, ˜˜La Bourgeoisie Iranienne,™™ 891.
101
Adelkhah, Being Modern in Iran, p. 59.
114 Bazaar and State in Iran

Republic, yet a few Jewish merchants continue to work in the Bazaar,
particularly in the carpet, stationery, and cloth sectors. There continues
to be a large portion of Turkish speakers dominating many sectors.
Some bazaaris from Tabriz, the largest Turkish-speaking city in Iran,
located in Eastern Azerbaijan province, mentioned that several of the
wealthier Tabrizis moved to Tehran because anticapitalist sentiments in
Tabriz were running high in the early years and, since Tabriz was
smaller than Tehran, their wealth was more conspicuous. Kurds are
active in the Bazaar as porters and as middlemen linking the Bazaar to
the smuggling on the eastern frontier. Arabic-speaking Iranians and
immigrants from Iraq and the Persian Gulf have also established niches
in the Bazaar, particularly the Marvi Bazaar and Kuwaiti Bazaar. Unlike
previous patterns where ethnic and regional minorities entered various
sectors, so far these ˜˜Arabs™™ appear to be concentrated in these few
bazaars. Notably, the 2 million Afghan refugees living in Iran have not
entered the Bazaar™s workforce. Despite earning low wages and com-
prising a large portion of Iran™s unskilled labor, Afghan laborers are
restricted to construction jobs and some menial labor in warehouses in
southeast Tehran (Dawlat-Abad). It seems that they both lack the
appropriate social contacts and face hostility in the Bazaar. This goes to
show that the network structure has resisted incorporating what most
Tehranis continue to view as ˜˜outsiders.™™ Thus, it seems that ethnic
heterogeneity may play a more divisive role since the Revolution, but
this topic needs further research and is experienced differently in locales
such as Mashhad, Tabriz, and Bushehr.
Religious organizations experienced somewhat contradictory trends.
Existing in almost all guilds, Islamic associations had their roots in the
revolutionary era, when they played an important role in organizing
anti-Pahlavi rallies, distributing funds and food to striking workers, and
disseminating political announcements, newspapers, and tape-recorded
speeches. After the Revolution, these associations were quickly domi-
nated by more zealous supporters of the Islamic Republic and advocates
of Islamization of society. They organized meetings where leading
revolutionary clerics would meet bazaaris, and they made public state-
ments criticizing non-Islamic groups and lay Islamic groups, all of whom
had support in the Tehran Bazaar. During the war years they were active
in donating food, clothes, and vehicles for the war effort and for those
¬‚eeing the wartorn areas.
The leader of the Islamic Association of China and Glassware Guild
of Tehran admitted, however, that ˜˜since the end of the war our
activities have diminished and most bazaaris do not attend our meetings
or contribute to our charity funds.™™ When I asked the old man why this
Bazaar transformations 115

was the case, he lowered his voice and said that bazaaris have differences
too and since the early years of the Revolution, it was dif¬cult to
maintain ˜˜that excitement and unity.™™ When I enquired further, he
mentioned that the reason for the Islamic Association™s success during
the 1980s was because ˜˜we maintained a hayati form and were not edari.
Unfortunately, many of our organizations have become edari and they
are no longer interesting to ordinary people.™™ The head of the Islamic
Association mentioned that the Ministry of the Construction Crusade
(Jahad-e Sazandegi), which was a ˜˜revolutionary institution™™ established
to improve rural conditions, had become like any other ministry, and
˜˜lost its hayati characteristics.™™ By using hayati, he was referreing to the
informal religious meetings that encouraged voluntarism and commu-
nity-based organization. Meanwhile, edari, or ˜˜bureaucratic,™™ refers to
hierarchical, of¬cial, and top-down organizations. The leader of the
Islamic Association did not elaborate on who were the leaders of these
now edari religious organizations, but bazaaris explained that they
shunned the various Islamic associations because they were headed by
staunchly conservative supporters of the Islamic Republic, the very same
actors who were now referred to as dawlati.
Many noted that religious observance increasingly occurs at the level of
the neighborhood and not at the guild or bazaar level. For example,
during the holy month of Moharram, many bazaaris attend neighbor-
hood-based hayat gatherings rather than their guild and bazaar-based
events.102 When I discussed religious matters with bazaaris, they com-
mented that over the years the ˜˜political abuse™™ of religion has divided
society and many now shy away from public and state-organized religious
events. A few bazaaris pointed out that they no longer pray in the Bazaar™s
mosques, but prefer to pray in the back of their store or at home. While it
is probably inaccurate to say, as well as dif¬cult to prove, that bazaaris are
less religious than prior to 1979, religion does not play the critical role of
bringing bazaaris of all walks of life together and fostering rich inter-
personal relations. One possible line of explanation for this could be that
since one™s public reputation is less vital in business matters, outward
display of religiosity is less important. Also, if under the Islamic Republic
religious display is increasingly viewed as ˜˜political abuse,™™ praying in the
mosque or being a Hajji is no longer a marker of trustworthiness. As
several bazaaris mentioned, ˜˜everyone is a hajji now.™™ This religious
in¬‚ation diminishes the symbolic meaning of religion, and thus praying in
102
Research on hayats is limited, but one recent study mentions that while many
merchants make up trustees of hayats in central Tehran, none of them participated in
these gatherings. ˜˜Hayatha-ye Mazhabi Ta˜aroz-e Sakhtar va Ravandha-ye Mojud,™™
Andisheh-ye Jame˜eh 5 (n.d), 29“33.
116 Bazaar and State in Iran

one™s of¬ce or attending religious ceremonies outside of the Bazaar has
less bearing on one™s standing as a reputable merchant. One can also
speculate that this interpretive transformation along with high levels of
literacy and availability of textual sources may provide an opening for
reformist interpretations of Islam within the Bazaar, by which I mean
nonconformist and individualistic understandings of religion.
Finally, daily activities and interactions have decreased after the
Revolution. Many of the social gathering places, including public baths,
traditional gymnasiums, and the large restaurants, have closed down as
lifestyles have changed and consumers have found new substitutes or
moved away. The famous bazaar coffee shops that were an important
gathering place for bazaaris are now only a rare sight in the immediate
bazaar neighborhood. In early 1979 there were 3,500 coffee houses in
Tehran, but by 1990 the total had plummeted to 900.103 The bazaaris™
economic and social lives do not overlap as readily.
Bazaaris™ also seem to be increasingly detached from one another in
their social lives. Expecting to hear that bazaaris spent their leisure time
together at religious gatherings or as part of ˜˜circles™™ (dawrehs) that
would meet to play cards or go for hikes and vacations, I began asking
newer bazaaris what they did in the evenings or at weekends and with
whom they spent their free time. They responded that much of their
limited time goes toward their family, playing sports, and in a few cases
pursuing artistic interests “ painting and reading poetry, hobbies com-
parable to other middle-class and upper-middle-class Tehranis. In
addition, in and of themselves these responses are not drastically dif-
ferent from what one may have heard in the 1970s. What is different,
however, is that these activities were conducted on an individual basis or
with neighbors and family members, and not with other members of the
Bazaar. One wholesaler mentioned that he would hike in the foothills of
the Alborz Mountains a couple times a week. He said that he typically
went alone, but on occasion he would go with a high-school friend.
Expecting that the high-school friend might be another bazaari, I asked
what he did. But his friend was an engineer. What makes this story even
more poignant is that through other members of the Bazaar, I dis-
covered that this hiker™s father headed a group of ten to ¬fteen men,
mostly bazaaris, on weekly treks in the mountains. These group events
have now been increasingly replaced by individualistic excursions or
gatherings of small groups of bazaaris who are close friends. Unlike the
multitude of weak ties that emerged out of the sociospatial locale of the


103
Ali Al-e Dawud, Encyclopaedia Iranica, s.v. ˜˜Coffeehouse,™™ p. 4.
Bazaar transformations 117

1960s and 1970s, these strong ties are weak in that they hem actors into
limited homogeneous circles.104
In addition, as instability in exchange has increased and new actors
have entered the Bazaar, social interactions have waned in the
Bazaar.105 While I was interviewing two young, but successful whole-
salers, one commented, ˜˜You cannot be friends in such a competitive
environment. I keep commerce and friendship apart. It is better that
way.™™ The other elaborated, ˜˜I have heard how our fathers spent a lot of
time together and had a circle of bazaari friends, but now you can™t do
that. Our friends are from different backgrounds. Anyway, this is the
right way.™™ This second comment suggests a growing differentiation
among bazaaris. This thirty-year-old bazaari, the son of a well-known
and wealthy merchant in the Bazaar, went on to say, ˜˜I spend my free
time with my friends. And my friends are not necessarily involved in
commerce. They are friends from school or my neighborhood. We share
a culture that does not mix well with many in the Bazaar.™™ His friend
referred to the economic disparity between these wealthier ˜˜old
bazaaris™™ and new lower-class entrants by adding, ˜˜We are of a different
level than many of these others in the Bazaar; we are from different
backgrounds.™™ This strati¬cation in the Bazaar appears to support Joel
Podolyn™s hypothesis that market uncertainty leads to segmentation in
exchange partners, whereby high-status actors avoid af¬liation with low-
status actors in order not to lose their status and reputation.106 Other
interviewees pointed to this fragmentation in the Tehran Bazaar where
˜˜old, reputable traders™™ shun exchange relations with ˜˜younger,
postrevolutionary types.™™ I was told on a number of occasions that this
tendency was less pronounced in the prerevolutionary bazaar.107 This
uncertainty, which induced fragmentation and segregation, thus works
against the development of crosscutting and multifaceted ties, and
the development of a far-reaching reputation system. Obviously this is
a very different situation from the one described by Ladjevardi,
where he remembers being brought up in a heterogeneous yet inclusive
104
Mark S. Granovetter, ˜˜The Strength of Weak Ties,™™ American Journal of Sociology 78
(May 1973), 1360“80.
105
Rotblat makes a similar argument about competition and social interaction in the
context of the produce market in Qazvin. Rotblat, ˜˜Stability and Change in an Iranian
Provincial Bazaar,™™ p. 179.
106
Joel M. Podolyn, ˜˜Market Uncertainty and the Social Character of Economic
Exchange,™™ Administrative Science Quarterly 39 (September 1994), 458“83.
107
Podolyn also writes, ˜˜The more high-status actors restrict their exchanges to others of
high status, the wider are the niches that are available to the low-status actors™™ (Ibid.,
458). The carpet sector seems to exhibit some of this tendency since ˜˜low-status™™
upstarts have found niches in exporting gabbehs, henna washed rugs, and the revival of
old designs and wools.
118 Bazaar and State in Iran

neighborhood that included shops and public baths. Today, the Bazaar
members have more distinct and separate nonwork lives based on class,
neighborhood, and generation. As such the Bazaar is an economic center,
but it is no longer a cohesive community that has high degrees of solidarity.
To sum up, unlike the stable and long-term value chains of the pre-
revolutionary era, under the Islamic Republic the commercial relations of
the Tehran Bazaar are highly unstable, indeterminate, and fragmented.
Speculative and transitory trade based on smuggling is predicted on
short-term and opaque relations with state agencies, off-shore exporters,
and middlemen. The trade networks are based on shorter and narrowly
de¬ned agreements, while exchange is conducted with cash or checks,
rather than credit relations based on long-term and crosscutting
arrangements. Not only have the economic foundations of commerce
changed, but they are re¬‚ected in a disembedding of exchange relations
from social bonds. Like economic relations, social relations are increas-
ingly partitioned into isolated cells lacking the bridging provided by
crosscutting social relations and space, or an overarching solidarity.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the regular social interactions helped pro-
duce weak ties among bazaaris. But today, the bazaaris™ ties are strong
ties based on exclusive economic (i.e. smuggling) or social relations
(friendships based on neighborhood and social class). As such, relations
are less long term, multifaceted, and crosscutting, and the constellation of
networks are more like coercive hierarchies than cooperative hierarchies.

Reputation and solidarity

Acquisition and maintenance of reputation
The issue of reputation and trust was the most common theme in my dis-
cussions with bazaaris. For bazaaris the terms ˜˜reputation™™ (e˜tebar or
khoshnami, literally ˜˜having a good name™™) and ˜˜reputable™™ (qabel-e etmi-
nan, literally ˜˜worthy of trust™™) were related to the concepts of ˜˜past
record,™™ ˜˜experience™™ and ˜˜being known™™. To evaluate someone™s repu-
tation you need to know their past (sabeqeh) before you can decide whether
to deem them trustworthy (qabel-e e˜temad, amin, dorost). Consequently, a
bazaari who is reputable is also referred to as one who is ˜˜known™™ (she-
nakhteh-shodeh) or ˜˜has a past™™ (sabeqeh-dar). The evaluation of the past is
closely related to experience (tajrobeh), both the experience, or expertise, of
each bazaari and their personal expertise with each other. First-hand
experience is of course preferred to second-hand information that may
cause problems of intersubjectivity. Yet networks may generate a proxy for
¬rst-hand experience by publicizying and verifying information about
Bazaar transformations 119

reputation within the community, which relies on them being well con-
nected. Thus, the language of, and cognitive process behind, reputation and
trust is inseparable from relational factors, rather than being attributes of
individuals.108 The evidence in this chapter suggests that the cooperative
hierarchies that predated the Revolution were better suited to supporting
the generation and maintenance of a reputation system than the coercive
hierarchies of the postrevolutionary era.
The Tehran Bazaar in the Pahlavi era included a number of methods
for differentiating between reputable and disreputable personalities. First,
the informal apprenticeship system acted as a means of initiation and
disciplining of new bazaaris through a gradual process of learning by
doing. As apprentices showed their capabilities and gained the trust of
their master they were given more responsibilities and taught more of the
tricks of the trade. For example, at ¬rst apprentices would only stock
goods and clean the store, but gradually the master began to guide them
in dealing with customers, cashing checks, and making arrangements with
suppliers. Through these actions and under the shadow of their master,
apprentices would gain experience and demonstrate their trustworthiness
to their master and the Bazaar community. All the time they would be
learning about the characters of bazaaris and norms of the Bazaar.109
The master“apprentice relationship was often overlain with actual
paternal or kinship ties. Many sons of successful bazaaris followed in the
footsteps of their fathers and worked alongside them in the Bazaar. Working
with one™s father was a shrewd way to gain experience and build a repu-
tation via association. Of course, the transfer of reputation across genera-
tions can be deleterious as well as bene¬cial. Thaiss™s ethnography reads,
˜˜If the reputation of the parents is unsatisfactory, it will be exceedingly
dif¬cult for the person to redeem it. A tradesman in the Bazaar nicknamed
him ˜Haji dozdeh™ (a humerous and sarcastic way of indicating that this man
had pretensions to piety but in reality was a thief). ˜Yes, they will leave this
name on him so everyone knows he is dishonest and no one will do business
with him. Even now his sons are known as pesar-i haji dozdeh (son of haji the
thief).™ ™™110 Although most sons followed in their fathers™ footsteps, it was

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