Remaking Nature in Iran: Environmentalism, Science, and the Nation
Park, Thomas K.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn the last 30 years, Iran has experienced mounting environmental problems, such as air and water pollution, that are perceived as in need of redress. In order to address and confront these problems, Iran has recently adopted the language and framework of ecological science. Subsequently, the prestige of science in the country has been growing through extensive applications of ecological science at various levels of Iranian society. Viewing this development as a socio-cultural process of modernity in Iran, this dissertation addresses two major issues: First, it investigates the discursive historical conditions of Iran in which modern science, including ecological science, has been developed and practiced since the nineteenth century. Second, it explores the cultural dimensions of environmentalism in Iran through examining its reception by Iranian environmentalists, researchers, and non-expert citizens in Tehran and their attitudes toward it. The analyses of the genealogies of science in Iran show that modern science has provided Iranians with a conceptual framework through which to govern the objects that state authorities, with accuracy and efficiency, wish to identify, analyze, and organize. I argue that the "population" has been a prominent object in the governance of Iran in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and that, more recently, "the environment" has become such an object. Scientific knowledge and management have played a vital role in establishing these mechanisms of governance, thereby the status of science is kept intact in Iran. Drawing on thirteen months of fieldwork in Tehran, I also examine the recent development of environmentalism in urban Iran through changing conceptions of "nature." With Iran's utilization of ecological science, a new conception of nature is recently introduced to society: a scientific formulation of nature. I demonstrate how this notion of nature has become influential along with growing environmental discourses in Iran, and yet, argue that another conception of nature--relating to Iranian nationhood--also makes a key contribution to Iranian environmentalism. In particular, I engage the anthropological perspectives of "materiality" and "heteroglossia" to highlight this point.
Degree ProgramGraduate College