The Tehran Project: Water, City, People is a project of the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine.
Tehran, the capital of Iran, is known within Iran as a new metropolis, a city of little history and background, and an overgrown capital conglomerate of little character besides that of its administrative function. Tehran boasts about 10 million people in population and it includes within its borders three hitherto independent towns and many former villages, hunting grounds, and agricultural estates.
Despite this, and maybe as a result of it, Tehran has a fascinating history which is old in its classical meaning, and essentially representative of the history of Iran in many senses. Tehran actually is the site of many historic towns, including Ray, which have affected the history of Iran through most of its existence. It does have its own unique culture, background, urban history, as well as local relations that predate its inception as a capital. Today, containing people from all regions of Iran, representing all religions present in the country, and at the same time, still preserving some of its old charms, Tehran is an anomaly and a large laboratory of environmental, ethnological, religious, linguistic, architectural, archaeological, and economic cases waiting to be studied.
The present project, in order to consider all different aspects of this city, aims to look at Tehran from the point of view of the spaces that it occupies, both physical and metaphorical. This will allow the project to change focus, at times concentrating on micro studies of language and religion, and at others, zooming away to consider urban occupation and city planning. In-between the two, matters of ethno-linguistic make up and their relations to the occupation patterns, as well as specialized topics such as health and environmental issues can be studied in the city, based on their framing on a macro level and their studies on a micro one.
The Tehran: Urban Space project would consider different levels of the study of the city through the engagement of experts in various fields, as well as creating collaborative workshops and seminars on subjects of interest to the participants. The project will both benefit from individual research and from a collaborative sharing of information. Through the use of computer technology for recording, organizing, and distribution of the data and the research outcomes, the project will make it easier for the participants, as well as those interested from outside the project, in collaborating and exchanging ideas. By maintaining the same system, the project will also make it easier for the public and the interested sectors in using the data and the results of the project.
Envisioned Foci of the Project
The project will focus on the history of Tehran, both before its conception as the capital of the Qajar dynasty (1793) and after it, up to the present. In this sense, the focus will be on archaeology of pre-historic and historic Tehran, the urban history of the site, and the linguistic history of the region, as well as the history of its relations with its surrounding areas. Matters of culture, environments, political activities, and population history will also be of prime importance.
In considering the more recent times, the project will increase its focus on the development of Tehran as a metropolis, the changes in the urban settings of the city and the shift from a traditional to a modern, often European influenced city. Aside from this, the status of Tehran as the capital of a nation-state and the resulting inflow of population will be studied by appropriate experts. Among the major aspects of these questions are the study of the religious and linguistic groupings of Tehran, including a study of the interaction between the local dialects and the immigrant languages. A look at religious groups and their representation, including the relocation of a large Armenian population in the late 19th century, will be of utmost interest. In dealing with the status of the city in modern periods, a study of the environmental effects of Tehran’s amazing growth since 1950’s will be central to the project, with a special focus on health issues in late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Other aspects of the study will be grouped under the general rubric of space and urbanity, where issues of culture, such as the representation of art and architecture will be studied for their value as tools of creating physical spaces, and shaping mental ones. In this sense, the formation of the cultural space would be most important in the study of citizenship and the creation of identities as members of a new urban setting. This focus would also be important for one of the goals of the project which is to collect, archive, and study the data available on the architectural history of the city and its relation to the ethno-linguistic setting of the metropolis.