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A Gift of Compassion: Welfare, Housing, and Domesticity in Contemporary Iran

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Abstract

This article examines the largest welfare housing project in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1979‐2020). It sets out to present a particular method of research that, borrowing from the discipline of anthropology, takes planning documents as a point of departure. I will inquire into the ways state-initiated architectural projects intersect with the demands and realities of domesticity and residents' everyday habits of living, giving particular attention to the gender roles and class identities in welfare housing projects and the position of female beneficiaries in relation to their family as well as the larger society. Using the example of the Mehr project in Iran, I demonstrate how housing operated for government officials as a means for re-organizing society along the axes of patronage and patriarchy. Moving to the field of everyday life, however, and building on the discourses of domesticity and women's struggle, I unpack how, starting from the intimate scale of the domestic, welfare can serve as the basis for a newly empowered beneficiary to conceive her rights and exercise them. The research that is presented in this paper challenges the negative conception of welfare housing as mere charitable aid devoid of any potential for supporting the social rights of a people.
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Keywords: Iran; class; domesticity; gender; housing projects; welfare

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121612573 Goldsmiths, University of London

Publication date: July 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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