Of Nuclear Rials and Golden Shoes: Scaling Commodities and Currencies across Sanctions on Iran

Emrah Ylldlz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Since the 2012 sanctions that dis-embedded the Iranian economy from global markets, contraband commerce has become an explosive issue in Iran. Increasingly Iranians came to regard sanctions as enforced by both international powers and their own state officials, who criminalized certain kinds of cross-border trade, but not others. Although Iranian state actors distinguish between the trader - praised for contributing to the economy - and the traitor - denounced for undermining its integrity - what both unites and blurs the line between them is their shared struggle with a devaluing currency that some Iranians call nuclear. This article examines the nuclear rial by extending insights from anthropological scholarship on money to the study of sanctions to advance a dynamic understanding of currency. Studying Iranian trade in gold proves productive for understanding how people negotiate the effects of sanctions in an unevenly financialized world. At stake in the negotiations is a conditional articulation of monetary value that relies on contingent conversions between commodities and currencies and among currencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-619
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Iran
  • Turkey
  • commodity
  • contraband
  • currency
  • sanctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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