This panel seeks to explore how urban life has changed in Tehran from the early twentieth century to today, and how this change reflects developments in both the broader global and national context and in the local socio-economic, cultural and artistic context. Particularly, the panel will study how the spaces, places and virtual realms of the capital have generated and embodied visions, forms and expressions of cosmopolitanism, sociability and conviviality, middle class lifestyles and cultural capital, vibrancy and vitality, at various stages of its history.
“The cosmopolitan” and cosmopolitanism as concepts escape easy definition: they are inherently ambiguous notions, prone to simplistic observations and academic well-wishing for a world that seems ever more parochial, regressive and hostile to diversity. And yet, the idea of a cosmopolitan city and cosmopolitan urban life has been able, time and again, to expand the horizon of social imaginations, interactions and encounters. At different stages of the transformation of Tehran from an imperial headquarter to a bustling metropolis, ideas of cosmopolitanism were infused into the shaping of middle class society, identities and self-representations.
This panel explores these notions as they became tacit or overtly expressed in attempts at negotiating status and identity, infusing and accommodating difference and diversity, and fashioning and refashioning the city. The panel treats different actors as part of a whole: migrants, minorities, women, filmmakers and rappers; in different periods of modern Tehran’s history, from the first three decades of the 20th Century to World War II and on to present day; and how these actors, in the context of each their historical period, created new spaces - whether the cinema, the factory, social media or in rap music - in which middle class Tehranis could engage in the making of community.