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Wednesday CSI lunchtime seminar

Geoffrey Hughes

Mercy as Muslim Practice: In search of justice with Jordan’s Bedouin

Event details

12:30-14:00 on Wednesday, the 9th of November in IAIS, Lecture Theatre 2

Geoffrey Hughes, Mercy as Muslim Practice: In search of justice with Jordan’s Bedouin

Popular debates around criminal justice reform in Europe and North America have led to renewed interest in restorative justice as a humane (if utopian) alternative to retributive justice. Drawing on extensive research with Jordanian Bedouin, I offer an account of how contemporary Muslims strive to apply the Quranic principle of qisās, which both stipulates the principle of ‘a life for a life’ yet simultaneously urges victims to accept restitution as a form of mercy or rahma. While cataloguing how current practices can fail women, the poor and the poorly-connected, I also highlight why Bedouin find their system of justice so appealing. I emphasize in particular how mercy can transform enmity into forgiveness (if not friendship) by encouraging perpetrators to materially compensate victims. I conclude by considering what lessons those dissatisfied with contemporary Euro-American models of justice might draw from the Jordanian case.


Geoffrey Hughes is a lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Exeter and the Associate Editor of the Journal of Legal Anthropology. His work is broadly concerned with Islam, ethics and the politics of everyday life in Jordan. His first book, Affection and Mercy: Kinship, Islam and the Politics of Marriage in Jordan, tracks a series of social engineering projects seeking to transform how individuals and families marry. He is currently writing a book about how Jordanians conceptualize the politics of social media uptake in their country tentatively titled Social Media Tribes.


IAIS Building/LT2