This article explores the social composition of the women’s quarter of Nasir al-Din Shah’s court, variously referred to as his harem or andarun, during his reign (1848–96). The article offers a brief sketch of the complex structure of this institution and some of the key figures who made up its residents, at various points estimated to be between seven hundred and two thousand wives and female relatives, as well as different classes of employees. While this institution was at once highly elite and hierarchically organized, the kinds of social, affective, and political power that circulated in it, and the multiplicity of bodies that came into contact inside its physical boundaries, mark it as a historically specific and unique social place—one that stood in a liminal temporal and physical space—at the crux of Iran’s engagements with modernization and in the very city center of Tehran.

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