Insurgency planning in gray spaces (Case Study: Abkooh Neighborhood in Mashhad)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 shahid beheshti university

2 Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Design, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran


In spite of existing several urban development plans in recent decades in global south and developing countries like Iran by applying usually instrumental rationality, the problem of informal settlements is getting worse and worse. Therefore, rather than analyzing the process and implementation of urban development plans, the hidden aspect of urban theory, power, and the effect of that in the process of urban planning must be considered that usually is neglected by urban planners. Gray spaces are affected by power and capital relations and also formal-informal dualism put these spaces in a permanent temporariness that always make them wait to be modified. Since power-based relations are strongly in favor of the upper class, its living spaces are affected by these relations and experience different social, economic, environmental and physical problems. Like the other parts of the city, gray spaces, which are also referred to by stigmas such as informal settlements and urban decay, have urban development plans. However, the spaces are being formed inconsistent with the rules and standards presented in urban plans through insurgent planning. The present study aims to present how gray spaces are formed through insurgent planning not the formal procedures of spatial planning. Using a social constructivism approach and a Foucauldian discourse analysis, the current study identifies two discourses. First, the common discourse which has tried to create invited spaces through power-knowledge. Second, the alternative discourse that has tried to create invented spaces through insurgent planning. To investigate power relations and insurgent planning in Abkooh Neighborhood, documentary studies and field observations are carried out. Moreover, some In-depth Interviews are performed with urban authorities, urban planners, and Abkooh residents. In the point of view of Foucault power-knowledge the production of space is not just the results of laws and formal process of urban planning. In fact, several different factors such as disciplinary discourse, disciplinary institutions, permanent state of exception and biopower have been affecting the production of space. Moreover, In the common discourse, settlements in gray spaces are affected by power and capital relations and they are treated as a problem while it is considered a solution for providing affordable housing in alternative discourse. The results indicate that in spite of different urban development plans for Abkooh Neighborhood, the production of space has been affected by insurgent planning. In other words, In Abkooh Neighborhood in Mashhad, spaces are being produced by insurgent planning not formal procedures of urban planning and that is why academics and urban planning practitioners must consider this issue. Due to the lack of affordable housing in Abkooh, the residents have built some housing with minimum standards, So, urban authorities are expected to provide at least community facilities in order to improve the quality of life in these areas. urban planners in addition to traditional urban planning approaches that they have learned in university, must consider power-knowledge issue in the process of urban planning to be more efficient in the informal process of urban planning.


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