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The Empty Locus of Power: Production of Political Urbanism in Modern Tehran


Is there a connection between power struggles and urban context? How the urban space used for the symbolic manifestation of power and social control? How urban space becomes the site of conflict and resistance? How urban nodes like squares became political apparatus in social demonstrations and revolutions? How do specific squares become symbols of revolutions? This thesis investigated these questions by viewing the city as a place formed by politics, which built upon the central concept of Meydan (Public Square), as the “political order in the ideogram of the city”. Focusing on public squares, it traces their sociopolitical transformations as well as their role in instigating social transformations through examples that span from the pre-modern times to the present. As the embodiment of the square in the image of the city, the historical, social and theological concept of Meydan- a term, which has mostly applied, for Iranian public squares has been studied. The Empty Locus of Power rereads squares as peculiar urban forms and representations of political ideas, when the squares of the city has become the stage for the process of politicizing, de-politicizing or neutralizing space. This thesis tries to analyze the square beyond an architectural element in the city, but weaves this blank slate, with its contemporary socio political atmosphere as a new paradigm. This interpretation, suggested the idea of Meydan as the core of the projects on the city, which historically exposed in formalization of theological ideologies. Regarding this issue, urban space of traditional Iranian cities introduced as the medium through which theological ideologies and political sovereignty took place. In pursuing such analyses, this research engages with issues ranging from details of political histories of the case studies in public squares to the master plan of the city of VIII Tehran. During the recent century, various political events and social demonstrations have been staged in Tehran as Middle Eastern Capital, which emphasize the further discussions for analyzing the relationship between socio-political dimensions of city and its urban projects that ultimately led to occupy the city and reclaim the public spaces in Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. In this sense, analyzing the major political events in modern Tehran as a city loaded with politics will lead to trace the processes of its spatial transformation. In this regard, the thesis examines the relationship between affordances of public spaces, their histories, and the emergence of social events and movements. Building on this theoretical framework, this thesis stresses on the transformative dynamism of autocratic modernization, which motivate or shape a creative tension in the form of the city. The emergence of representative pseudo political public space for demonstration of power and national identity during the First Pahlavi Era (1925-41), reoccupation of public spaces by social movements and political parties during the nationalization of Iranian oil movement till 1953 Iranian coup d'état will be the second part and socio- political arrangement of capital as ‘Metropolis of Tomorrow’ and its urban transformation during the second Pahlavi Era (1941-79) till Islamic Revolution have been examined. Analysis suggests that spatial transformations and modernization politics have led to or facilitated (directly or indirectly and, or inadvertently) political changes. Building on the foundation of knowledge established in this research, the final part of research focuses on the centrality of squares in recent social protests. Using Middle East sociologist, Asef Bayat’s theory of ‘Spatialities of discontent’, the final chapter explores the spatial dimension of political spaces of the city and aims to theorize the necessity of urban social movements to approach democratic space in a global context

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PORTO@iris (Publications Open Repository TOrino - Politecnico di Torino)

Last time updated on 30/10/2019

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