Defining Urban Renewal in Tehran: The Complex Dialogue Between Citizens and Municipality

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 65
Oral Presentation
Sahar SAEIDNIA , Sociology, École Hautes Études Sciences Sociales, PARIS, France
Mina SAIDI SHAROUZ , Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre La défense/ Mosaiques-LAVUE, France, TEHRAN, France
Since 2006 Tehran municipality has started a pilot environmental and urban development project in Beryanak, an old southern and popular neighbourhood particularly exposed to seismic dangers. This new urban experiment, part of a wider environmental seismic prevention project, aimed at implementing a participatory urban renewal based on a dialogue with inhabitants, the neighbourhood council, local associations and with a scientific mediation of a research unit of anthropologists and town planners.

This project involving professional and social dialogue was innovative in Tehran, where a centralized and technical approach was traditionally favoured. More broadly, it reflects the participatory shift in urban policies illustrated by the decentralization law of 1997 and the creation of elected neighbourhood councils in Tehran in the 2000’s.

This paper will examine this complex dialogue and the way neighbourhood councils have progressively positioned themselves as key actors of urban development in Tehran. Indeed these collaborative and participatory organizations designed to integrate ordinary citizens to the definition of their city’s public policies, have encountered many difficulties to fit in the local political space. Thus, this paper will focus on the different conditions and modalities of mediation and cooperation in the Beryanak project and how they evolved through time. We will both study the structure of the dialogue, mainly the habitus, backgrounds and representations of the actors (town planners, neighbourhood councils, municipality, etc.), and the tensions, conflicts or the asymmetry between them in terms of positions, knowledge, power, interest or resources.

This paper is mainly based on a long-term field study conducted in Beryanak (Teheran) since 2006 (participant observations of deliberative experiences, project’s meetings observations and semi-structured interviews with City advisors, neighbourhood councillors, citizens, researchers, state representatives, religious field actors, etc.).