Everyday sites of state formation: Gender segregated spaces in Tehran

By Nazanin Shahrokni
Submitted to Session P2898 (Practices and Piety in Contemporary Iran, 2011 Annual Meeting
Gender/Women's Studies; Iranian Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, gender segregated spaces have become a prominent feature of the Iranian urban space. On the buses, women are relegated to the back; at the universities men and women are asked to sit in separate rows and enter from separate entrances; there are women-only parks and hospitals; and soccer stadiums are open only to men. These spatial practices are often lumped under the all-encompassing term “gender segregation,” which is considered to be part of the state’s larger project of the Islamization of society, allegedly aimed at excluding women from the public sphere.
This paper draws on a larger project that focuses on women-only parks, soccer stadiums, and buses, as the major sites of segregation in Tehran, and contends that gender-segregated spaces represent different features of the Iranian state’s paternalistic stance towards women; they operate differently, produce different effects, and engender different modalities of action.
By taking into account the variations across these cases, this paper complicates the unidimentional theorization of gender segregation, and asks the following questions: How and through what (macro and micro) mechanisms are gender-segregated spaces produced? What are the implications of these segregated spaces for the Iranian state? What do the variations across these gender-segregated sites tell us about the Iranian state, beyond reducing the explanation to “Islamization of society”?