Re-Imagining Rurality; An Alternative Perspective on Rural Transformation in Iran and Beyond

Maryam Shafiei1

1School Of Architecture, University Of Queensland, , Australia

The scholarship on rural transformation of landscapes have frequently treated the city and village as segregated entities at opposite poles of society. Iranian cities and villages, however, from time immemorial, have been part of the ‘sedentary’ continuum, with constant conflicts with the other societal pole – ‘mobile nomads’ – over issues of land possession and its management. In effect, these protracted conflicts have directly influenced the formation and transformation of human settlements in Iran. Within this framework and by challenging the alleged city-village polarity, this paper explores how nomadic-sedentary conflicts, both in traditional and contemporary terms, could potentially be employed as the ‘operative tool’ towards re-thinking recent physical and spatial transformations of rural settlements in Iran and other Asian countries with similar nomadic backgrounds. Accordingly, the paper argues that the decline in nomadic populations and their political power in recent decades has resulted in the overthrow of traditional nomadic-sedentary polarity, catalysing the rise of ‘new nomadism’ trends, and profoundly impacting the physical and spatial structures of rural communities. It subsequently examines how this alternative perception would facilitate a better understanding of the ‘hybridity’ that emerged within contemporary rural settlements both in Iran and beyond.


Maryam Shafiei is a PhD candidate at the School of Architecture – University of Queensland. She holds a Bachelors and Masters of Architecture from Iran. Maryam’s research interests span subjects in urban history and rural/urban morphology, especially the examination of physical and spatial transformations of rural and urban spaces.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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