An explanation of professional associations in urban planning based on Critical Discourse Analysis

Document Type : Research Paper


1 student of urban planning, Faculty of fine art, university of tehran, Tehran

2 School of Urban Planning, Tehran university, Tehran, Iran


Professional planning associations have acted as a critical component in advancing the professional status of urban planning as an independent profession. This is in the face of the fact that planning profession, by way of criticizing the instrumental rationality, has struggled with its own identity as a profession. The expected role of professional associations, which are making a transition away from the traditional frameworks, is making it more difficult for these bodies to face the ever-increasing challenges. Traditionally, these associations have tended to make a distinction, between what is considered as a profession and what is not. Thus, the traditional definition of professionalism and profession - while being criticized from different perspectives- has dominated the evaluation of the profession for a long time. Even today, it cannot be said with certainty that its domination has come to ended. However, theoretical shifts toward new approaches such as critical approach have opened new perspectives and have influenced the perception of full-fledged and credible profession. Critical approach provides new basis for redefining traditional roles and increase the responsiveness of professional associations toward new concerns in the planning field. Along with these transitions, the desired role of professional associations has also changed and has expanded beyond the limited scope of the traditional conceptions of profession. This process moves along with the fundamental changes in the concepts of profession and professionalism. New concepts such as “organizational-managerial” and “Hybrid” professionalism can be considered as the signs of this transition.  The traditional roles and their redefinition based on critical approach have provided us with a theoretical base, enabling us to critically look at the roles and responsibilities of urban planning professional associations in Iran and investigate their position on this transition process. The research approach was qualitative. In this regard, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) has been chosen as a research methodology. This method is sensitive to the context and has a capacity to uncover distortions. Non- probability sampling, consisting of purposive sampling technique was used to collect data using Semi-structured interviews. In this regard, 19 discursive interviews with selected members of professional and managerial bodies of planning associations and non-member planners have been conducted to achieve theoretical saturation. The findings reveal that professional associations in urban planning face with six different roles, which include a wide range of concerns in different aspects. Comparative comparisons showed that the position of extracted roles is somewhere in between traditional and redefined roles with a greater tendency towards traditional roles. This position can be interpreted as the associations’ dual role. On one hand, they are expected to comply with traditional roles to strengthen the foundations of the profession in the profession/non-profession dichotomy. On the other hand, they are expected to move toward new perspectives and redefined concepts of professionalism. This dual role means that for urban planning, the initial concern of substantiating its claims to professional status is still a major preoccupation. Although the necessity of moving toward new perspectives is acknowledged, it appears that it is not easy to step on this path.


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