Non-Visibility and the Politics of Presence: a spatial analysis of contemporary Iran

Pedram Dibazar | This project is a cultural study of tactics of presence in the present-day Iranian public sphere. It refers to a multiplicity of spheres of socio-cultural presence of within and beyond the city. The concept of the city encompasses numerous spatio-temporal formations, including public appearances, power relations, social interactions, urban configurations, cultural representations, societal sensibilities, artistic materializations, narrative devices and affective registers. These formations, I will argue, contribute to liminal spatialities of non-visible, non-conspicuous, nonassertive and non-certain presences. As such, this project studies the ways in which politics of presence in Iranian city life work in favor of the maintenance of potentiality through the suspension of visible action and slippage between socio-cultural boundaries. Those politics of presence, I will argue, work against the reification of identities by pushing power relations into a state of uncertainty.

Building on concepts of tactics (De Certeau) and art of presence (Bayat), this project explores the link between visibility and basic urban design strategies of accessibility, recognition and encounter (Fincher and Iveson) in the context of the socio-politico-cultural environment of contemporary Iran. With presence in Iranian cities being directly related to safety and security concerns, this project will be a study of the affective economies of fear and “othering”. The non-visible registers of presence will be addressed as tactics to insulate against those insecurities, to by-pass them, and to open up a space of resistance, non-conformity, and becoming. By studying certain social and cultural spatialities through the concept of non-visibility, this project tends to outline the politics of presence in contemporary Iran.

Supervisor | Christoph Lindner