City as Stage: Performative Body and the Authoritarian City


Al-Zahra University, Tehran, Iran, 12 November 2022. A student re-enacting the torture scene of Khodanour Lajaei being tied to a flag post by the state agents. He was shot during the Zahedan massacre (aka. Bloody Friday) on 30 September 2022 and died in a hospital on October 2.


City as Stage: Performative Body and the Authoritarian City

Authors: Ahmadreza Hakiminejad and Mahsa Alami Fariman 


In a cold day in December 2017, on the curbs of Enghelab Street in central Tehran, Iran, a defiant woman climbs a utility box, takes her hijab off, ties it to a stick and waves it to the crowd. Her eyes stared soulless towards her city, waving her white scarf in silence. The performer reclaimed the street to convert it into a theatrical stage with its astonished audience. This simple yet courageous bodily phenomenon tending to reclaim the city became a symbolic act of protest against the compulsory hijab.

In light of the ongoing Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran – ignited by death in custody of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Jina Amini for ‘improper hijab’ in September 2022 — performance as act of resistance has become a semiotic way of protest in the face of the authoritarian city. Enacting the factual moments of oppression, suffering and even joy, Iranian urban women rebel against a city that tends to control the public body — and create a novel space of theatrical disobedience. In this paper, we aim to critically explore and theorise these moments of performative resistance in the public urban spaces through the lenses of feminist geographies, ‘the right to the city’ and politics of space. In this context, the authoritarian city is produced by a) entities associated with a politico-ideological power fuelled by religious fanaticism and b) autocratic urban forms.   

This piece will be presented as part of Authoritarian Urbanism: Global Manifestations, Knowledge Exchange and Contestation conference, organised and hosted by the Institute for European Urban Studies (IfEU) at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, 09-11 November 2023.

The conference program can be found here

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