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8 - Justice, crime and punishment in 10th/16th-century Morocco

from PART II - Ritual dimensions of violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Fernando Rodríguez Mediano
Affiliation:
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científi cas (CSIC), Madrid
Christian Lange
Affiliation:
Utrecht University
Maribel Fierro
Affiliation:
Centre of Human and Social Sciences, Higher Council for Scientific Research, Spain
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Summary

In the second volume of Archives Berbéres, Louis Brunot describes a children's game from Fez, called sheffār-qammār: one by one, children sitting in a circle throw their slippers into the air. According to the way they fall back to the ground (with both soles downwards, with the uppers to the ground, or with one sole and one upper to the ground) each child will play the role of a sulṭān, a vizier or a thief. The rules of the game say that the thief will only be punished if there already exists a sulṭān or a vizier, in which case he will receive a series of strokes from a belt on the soles of his feet from the sulṭān. However, in the case where there is neither sulṭān nor vizier, the thief will not be punished. Finally, when a new sulṭān is elected, his predecessor will be dismissed after a good beating from the successor.

In its simplicity, this game from Fez shows the close link between the rise to power and the exercise of violence, as well as the dialectic links between order and disorder, between authority and anarchy. This dichotomy, whose nature is practically ideological, finally sanctions the legitimacy of power as representing a supreme order.

In the course of its exercise of violence, authority creates a discourse: it produces a text whose support is the body. This is a pedagogical discourse: it teaches and, by using indelible marks to do so, becomes part of memory.

Type
Chapter
Information
Public Violence in Islamic Societies
Power, Discipline, and the Construction of the Public Sphere, 7th-19th Centuries CE
, pp. 179 - 200
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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