Excitement, Courage and Fear The Affective Dimension of Ethnographic Fieldwork at Night in Tehran

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Description

Based on ethnographic fieldwork, conducted in 2017-2018, this paper explores the nightlife in Tehran from the standpoint of a female researcher. From driving, to walking, to using different modes of public transport at night, the study shows the sociocultural, political and ethical limitations of urban night studies against the female researchers. Taking my female body as the main focus of the discussion within the socio-political context of Tehran, the aim is to show the affective dimensions of collecting ethnographic data at night under intense circumstances. The paper will explore how excitement, courage and fear were embodied during the research in specific times and spaces of the city after dark. To explore the excitement, the social phenomenon of dor-dor (‘turn-turn’ in Farsi) will be explored. Limited mostly to the affluent car-driving youth subculture of the northern districts of Tehran, this phenomenon is known mostly as a change to the boredom of the city at night when private cars (separate groups of young men and women) pour suddenly into specific parts of the controlling city. Through this, it is discussed how the use of the material environment, such as red-traffic lights, U-turns, parking spaces and so forth can facilitate exciting opportunities for socialising among the young city dwellers. But the paper goes beyond that, to show the danger of conducting late night fieldwork from the standpoint of a female researcher as well. Following some arbitrary, oddly purposeful journeys on foot through the less-crowded areas of north Tehran or in the middle of crowded, but less-affluent southern neighbourhoods, the paper examines a different set of methodologies used to embrace courage while hiding/masking an intense fear. It is discussed how the terrified female pedestrian adrift/nightwalker/researcher, in an urban environment that seems increasingly alienating and strange at dark, experiments vulnerability to crime and predatory pimps, but at the same time, she finds her body obeying some unconscious codes of a social insider - related to masking, bodily gestures and appearance – until she finally preserved her autonomy in the process of data collection at night.
Period7 Oct 2022
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Keywords

  • Female body
  • Embodiment
  • rhythm
  • affect