Tehran’s rapid expansion as an urban landscape in the twentieth century entailed chaotic assemblage and ongoing creative destruction that went hand in hand with the capitalist reconfiguration of social life across the country. And like any other large city, Tehran and its historical trajectory has yielded dark urban imaginaries among artists, intellectuals and average citizens: notions of discontinuity, instability, disorder, inertia, anomie, alienation, delinquency, anxiety, nihilism, moral decay, egocentrism, nostalgia and disorientation. Can these notions of urban life and death be read and observed as a ‘Tehran Noir Urbanism’?
As Gyan Prakash has noted, the “dark form” can be understood as “a mode of representation” and “a form of urban criticism”. Indeed, ‘Tehran Noir’ has afforded a form of critique in fiction, art, music, social sciences, popular as well as administrative vernaculars: Perceptions, representations and visions of the urban fabric, the city’s morphology and its different spaces that bring out both metaphorical and concrete examples of inequality, polarization, fear and danger. ‘Tehran Noir’ is also, however, an aesthetic and a language – understudied so far in the literature on Iran.
In the vein of Gyan Prakash and other urbanists, this panel seeks to move from “considering the images of the city to the imagined city, from urban imagination to urban imaginaries”, building on the conviction that modernity “is inseparable from image production and circulation” and “visuality integral to our knowledge and practice”. By conceptualizing ‘Tehran Noir Urbanism’, the panel seeks to provincialize the ‘Western metropolis’ and its celebrated noir urbanisms by exploring dark understandings of the city – artistic, scientific, popular, subjective – within the material, spatial and geographical context of Tehran’s history.