Right to the Public Space; The Case of Tehran

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


It is a legitimate question that to some extent theories and concepts representing the complexity of Western urban context can be relevant to Eastern countries. Taking Tehran as the case of this study, this paper is set to elaborate the complex condition of this city in order to introduce to English-speaking readers a range of theories that seek to conceptualise the conditions of Iran from different angles. In doing so, firstly, I explain that why it is necessary to reconsider some Western categories when applying to a nonWestern setting such as Tehran. For example the Western dichotomy of private/public space cannot hold its original meaning when applying in a non-Western context. Rather, in Tehran and in Iran at large, historically, the city was a king’s property which was creating a binary of home-street as Iranian city dwellers took home as a space of peace, whereas, streets (spaces outside homes) were the practical terrain of power performances; Arbab(public)/Ra’yat(private) space. However, this is not the only endeavour of this study. The other aim of this paper is to depict a socio-political picture of the urban Tehran today and the ways that people, unexpectedly, re-claim the mechanism of established power and transform the qualities of public space. Exploring semi-public/semi-private spaces in Tehran, such as taxi or café, this paper explores the massive contradictions and ‘in-between’ balances between freedom/control, tradition/modernity as a subtle or ‘velvet’ form of resistance carries out daily by people in Tehran, especially women and youth. Not only that, it also will be argued that when public space (Arbab) is policed and controlled, domestic interiors (Ra’yat) cease to be the exclusive domain for individual and family life. Rather, they become the spaces of practicing new forms of collective life such as art galleries, workshops, clubs, cultural centres, and offices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe City and Complexity
Subtitle of host publicationLife, Design and Commerce in the Built Environment
EditorsRobert Lastman
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

ISSN (Print)2398-9467


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