Volume 2, Issue 2 (9-2014)                   JRIA 2014, 2(2): 93-109 | Back to browse issues page

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Nari Ghomi M, Abbaszadeh M J. The Guest at Home: a Comparative Study between Iran and the West at the Threshold of Modern Age (Case Study: Qajar Houses in Tabriz). JRIA 2014; 2 (2) :93-109
URL: http://jria.iust.ac.ir/article-1-157-en.html
Abstract:   (9351 Views)
Many scholars believe that social modernity in Iran has been started far earlier than era of Reza Shah Pahlavi with its up-down modernization project and it is argued that there has been an innate social process of modernity gradually developed since Qajar period. So it can be questioned that which one of the two cultural models of Modernity and Tradition has been dominating Qajar artifacts and if there were any clear footsteps of cultural patterns of modernity in spaces of everyday life of ordinary people of that time. Here, this question is inquired from the viewpoint of guest’s spatiality of home. Beginning from this question then domestic examples from first period of introducing of modernity to Iran (since Qajar to starting years of Pahlavi Dynasty) with emphasize on cases of city of Tabriz are studied concentrating on effects of the two cultures of Tradition and Modernity on spatial patterns of hospitality within these houses. The hypothesis of productive effect of dialectic of “self-other” on domestic spaces of modern era is put into critical debate. Three basic patterns of domestic spaces (minimal house, maximal one and collective house) are analyzed from viewpoint of spatial-cultural relations. Each of these three patterns has its special theoretical debate in western discourse of early modernity. For each pattern two example of Qajar houses of Tabriz are selected for analyzing of guest space: Amir-Nezam house and Behnam House are considered as maximalist type, Alavi House and Sehhati house as minimal examples and Rastgar house as semi-community house. So the research method is historical-interpretive based on historical texts, assessments and pictures as well as buildings. The maximal pattern is bourgeois’ that is manifested in Victorian examples. In this pattern all spaces are arranged upon a theatrical scene in which actors are homeowners and audiences are guests. This theatrical model as Goffman argued has been extended to contemporary western house. Introduction of large variety of rooms for various presences of guests can be interpreted as a byproduct of this culture. In comparison, in its Iranian counterpart there is no considerable social distance between the host and the guest in spatial order of a conventional party. Such a view has resulted in unifying of guest receiving space and living space which is placed at the central axis of house. This axial position is a socio-cultural characteristic of guest’s spatiality which is not restricted to maximalist ones. Any separation among people during guest presence would be upon vast family divisions which has no relation to guests. Heavy interior decoration of bourgeois’ internal design is eliminated in many houses of rich men of Qajar as our study shows. Two minimalist patterns of early modernity are arguable: dirty houses of Industrial revolution and what has been called “the minimum dwelling” by modernists. The latter is a product of modernists’ social project which was based on reducing home-living in the favor of social presence. It was an essential step to deny private sphere. The guest’s spatiality here was seen as being with others in out-of-home places. So restaurant and saloons occupied the place of parlors. Searching for Iranian transformation like that model has reverse result. We have shown here that in Qajar small houses of Tabriz, there were no conceptual difference in comparison with maximalist houses while historical documents show no sign of development of out-of-home places for guests. The third pattern is the community houses that were seen as utopias of the project of modernity. From the view point of guests’ spatiality, this pattern is movement towards denying any distance between self and other so the stranger becomes host as well as guest. In utopist text of William Morris (News from Nowhere) such a position is articulated. It has been argued by many writers of western culture that it has been common pattern of medieval society that has been destroyed by bourgeois’ culture. If the utopia were to be realized then strangers should be accepted in common spaces without any exception and if the socialist utopia was going on then maximizing use of common facilities would be seen as an instrument to saving the community so any private guest should make use of common ones instead of host’s ones (the example of socialist Russia housing projects). Khanghah of Daravish in the Islamic word pursues such a pattern with the exception of absence of family i.e. these places where completely masculine spaces. So these could not be extended to dwelling patterns of traditional Iran. In Tabriz of Qajar there were no similar examples to multifamily apartments of socialists’ utopias of early 20th century as well as utopian community ones. The only close examples to utopian patterns of modern guests’ spatiality in Tabriz are rare hotels of late Qajar and a house (Rastgar) with a linear and multi-unit plan that cannot be undoubtedly a Qajar house. It is could be said that social analysis of guests’ spatiality of modernity is heavily based on resolving of dialectic of otherness in western society of 19 century. This study shows that real patterns of modernity for guest’s spatiality at home differs greatly from its counterparts of Qajar Iran and those of Qajar could be interpreted far more persuasively with traditional patterns than those of modernity. So now it is possible to put some query on the hypothesis that tells if there was not obligatory modernization project of Rezashah then there would be an innate Iranian Modernity. Full openness toward strangers embedded at the center of utopian views of intellectuals of modernity and has been at the focal point of modern utopias has no essential meaning in domestic culture of Qajar era of Iran because acceptance of guest as a member of family was so deep in cultural-spatial patterns of those people that modern utopian perspective of fading “otherness” in spatial arrangement of hospitality of home has no new message for that people. So it is conceivable that the theory of innate cultural permutation of Islamic and traditional lifestyle of Iranians without Rezashah’s projects cannot be easily confirmed for social history of Iran.
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Type of Study: Research |
Received: 2015/06/28 | Accepted: 2015/06/28 | Published: 2015/06/28

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