A Gift of Compassion: Welfare, Housing, and Domesticity in Contemporary Iran
|Published in:||International Journal of Islamic Architecture, 1 July 2020, n. 2, v. 9|
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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