Maryam Roosta

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

McGill U.

Grant number

Gr. 10345

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Roosta, Maryam (McGill U.) "Between Marriage and Sex Work: An Ethnographic Study of Temporary Marriage among Sex Workers in Iran"

This research examines the relationship between sex work and marriage through a study of the women who form temporary marriages (mut’ah) for sexual transaction in Mashhad, a large city and a global Islamic pilgrimage site in Iran. In contemporary Iran, many sex workers use mut’ah to conduct their trade with the legal and religious legitimacy granted by temporary marriage contract, while others do not. In Twelver Shi’a Islam, temporary marriage is a contract lasting anywhere from an hour to 99 years between a man and an unmarried woman. Mut’ah remains distinct from permanent marriage in that its primary purpose is sexual gratification rather than procreation (Haeri 2014). Through ethnographic research with women in Mashhad, my research will explore how mut’ah blurs the boundaries between marriage and prostitution by analyzing the effects of this kin-making relation on labor and gendered subjectivity. By focusing on labor and gendered subjectivity as the main axes to understand the reconfiguration of sex work by mut’ah, this project will ultimately investigate the question: how can we (re)conceptualize marriage when it is employed as a way of selling sex?