This study examines the spatial dynamics of gender-segregated spaces and what these dynamics register about the transformations of state power in post-revolutionary Iran. In doing so, this work links everyday practices of traversing the city with macro-level dynamics of power and politics. It addresses the following questions: What can shifting gender segregation practices show us about the Iranian state and its shifting strategies of governing and maintaining legitimacy? How do local and global politics condition the production of gender-segregated spaces?I examine three illustrative cases of gender segregation in Tehran – women-only parks, gender-segregated buses, and men-only sports stadiums – in an effort to better theorise gender segregation as a state policy, in its multiple incarnations across time and space.First, I offer a ‘progressive sense’ of gender-segregated spacesby treating them not as enclosed and static entities but as the products of social processes. These spaces and the meanings associated with them are never set. Second, adopting a Foucauldian approach to power as productive and not merely prohibitive, and building on Lefebvre’s notion of space as a political product, I explore the ways in which gender-segregated spaces are interwoven with politics and relations of power. Finally, I argue that it is necessary to situate the Iranian state within the web of state-society relations and the larger context of interstate relations.
Nazanin Shahrokni is a Postdoctoral Academy Scholar at Harvard University, Weatherhead Center for International and Area Studies. She holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley.