Sociology of space in the twenty-first century is still informed by the basic Lefebvrian insight that the dialectics of material and socially constructed spaces both confine and empower human agency. Contested space here is understood as the physical space at the centre of conflicting interests as defined by different social actors. Examining the local neighborhoods, this panel will focus on (a) the legal, moral, economic, and political claims that conflicting urban actors in different cities in Iran may advance to control ownership, access, and uses of urban spaces, and (b) their opportunities, resources and strategies to realize or renegotiate these claims.
➢ What are the needs and means, economic interests and cultural claims fueling contestation between different claims over the use of urban space?
➢ What are the power dynamics over contested spaces?
➢ What are the legal frameworks, political frames, (municipalities, civil society, political parties etc.) in governing contested spaces?
➢ What modes of symbolic appropriation of urban space do we observe?
The concept of a spatiality of discontents refers to the loading and reloading of public spaces with memories and histories of agency for change. This phenomenon has been in evidence across the region in the wake of the Arab uprisings, as spaces like Tahrir Square in Cairo and Taksim Square in Istanbul were transformed into highly politicized platforms of collective actions and thereby re-signified as spaces of political mobilization and change. Tehran is no exception: like other insurgent cities of the Middle East, it has expanded its spatiality of discontents through recent protests–specifically, the Green Movement of 2009. The Movement once again highlighted the political importance of Revolution (Enqelab) Street in building and representing spaces of protest in Iran, but it also imbued other spaces with political significance as well– in particular, Valiasr Street, which emerged as a new ground on which to stage a more heterogeneous and disobedient citizenship. This essay explores these spatial dimensions of the political life of the city, and in so doing examines the ways in which the Green Movement bonded and broke with the past–in particular the Revolution of 1979.