Nov. 22, 2017
Ph.D. candidate Razieh Ghorbani was recently awarded the prestigious Carter Manny Award for doctoral research. Funded by the Graham Foundation, the award is given annually to two doctoral students in recognition of original and advanced doctoral writing and research in architecture.
Ghorbani is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the College of Environmental Design’s architecture department, specializing in history and theory of architecture in the Middle East. Her research explores the everyday politics of architecture and construction in Iran, focusing on how architects and other players within the building industry recalibrate the boundaries of their practices under specific economic and political situations.
Her dissertation, “The Space of Sanctions: Architecture and Construction in Contemporary Iran,” explores how the culture of sanctions transforms architectural practices in Iran, and leads to new ways of imagining the city and the built environment. Sanctions, while well understood in terms of politics and economics, have not been studied as part of everyday Iranian culture. In contemporary Iran, a vital part of the “culture of sanctions” is experienced materially, in architectural terms. This culture transformed the way architects, developers, and ordinary builders engage with buildings as spaces of investment and habitation while exercising new political rhetoric around discourses of modernity and globalization.
Her dissertation argues that sanctions work culturally and spatially simultaneously to close and open media. Though sanctions may obstruct the architectural field to certain material flows, they also open it to new cultural economies and political aspirations. This means that sanctions cannot simply be turned on and off. They have persisting social influences that should be studied even after their removal.
Ghorbani has been conducting her dissertation fieldwork in Tehran and Isfahan since January 2017. She is now exploring the ethnographic life of the city’s booms and recessions under the politics and rhetoric of sanctions, interviewing architects, artists, realtors, developers, and ordinary builders to document their narratives and imaginaries of understanding and making the urban built environment in Iran. Ghorbani is interested in recording emerging words, images, visions and cultures that are shaped among these groups in direct engagement with the current political and economic situation in Iran.
Prior to receiving the Carter Manny Award from the Graham Foundation, her research was supported by the Al-Falah Fellowship in Islamic Studies from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.