Eleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference

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The piece entitled ‘Women versus Cities: the Masculinity of Urban Space in Traditionaland and Modern Iran  was presented in the Iranian Studies Conference held at University of Vienna, 4 August 2016.


It is not long time ago since the introvert male-dominated society, kept its treasure; the goddess of Matbakh1 behind closed doors of Andarouni2. Despite some focal points of effective appearance of Iranian women in urban societies in the late 19th century (such as Tobacco Protest in 1891), until the early 20th century, the relations of Iranian woman and urban/public space was predominantly restricted to a veiled presence in the mosques, mourning rites and funeral ceremonies, depicting a sorrowful picture of her in the urban society. Rarely seen in the bazaar, possibly the public bath has been the only social platform, in which women could feel freer to interact, to talk and to meet within the only feminine public space in the city. The city was utterly exploited by men. The city was completely masculine and observably it remained masculine!
Due to the socio-economic transformations in early 20th century leading to the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911), the relationship between women and urban space began to change in Iranian cities. Politically speaking, from the forceful Removing of Hijab in 1934 by Reza Shah Pahlavi (which suddenly transformed the image of the veiled city to facing the women wearing miniskirts and high heels in downtown of the Iran’s capital) to the forceful covering of Hijab in Post-Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iranian women experienced a series of top-down political interventions reminding them they are painfully still the “second sex” in the contemporary Iran.     
The paper, firstly, discusses the historical transformation of women’s appearance in the urban spaces in sociological perspective in Iran; and secondly, it aims to explore how they- as the female “bodies of walkers” in the city- read this male-written rhetoric in modern urban society (as Michel De Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life gives a metaphorical expression of the city as ‘text’, while the walkers in the city are ‘readers’ of the “city-text”). Thus the socio-cultural nature of this research induces a series of semi-structured interviews with a group of Iranian women on their imaginations, experiences, stories and feelings of being/walking within the urban spaces in Iran’s modern cities.

1. Kitchen in traditional Iranian architecture.
2. Purdah; literally inner house where women cannot be seen by men.

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