Urban studies professor contributes article for Encyclopedia Iranica

Hamed Goharipour

Hamed Goharipour, assistant professor of urban studies at The College of Wooster, recently published an essay on “Tehran in Iranian Post-Revolutionary Films” in the Encyclopedia Iranica  (Cinema Iranica) that illustrates how Iranian movies and films use Tehran’s urban setting to convey city-person transactions. The cinematic image of cities is a personal and professional focus of his that dominated his research for several years and was part of his master’s thesis and Ph.D. dissertation.

Goharipour is a self-proclaimed movie fan and film collector who never saw movies as a source of information about cities until 2010 when he heard a guest speaker in Tehran talk about exploring and investigating cities through movies. He was immediately inspired to study the interdisciplinary topic.

He spent many months watching important Iranian and world movies with an urban lens to interpret them. His master’s thesis was the first in Iran to look at city and cinema from an urban planning or design perspective. For his Ph.D. dissertation, he developed a methodological framework, called urban cinesemiotics, for reading the city through cinema.

“The moving gaze of the cinema can establish our perceived space. Movies unfold untold stories about the city and narrate realities that, along with other realities, create our socially constructed experience of cities and urban space,” Goharipour said.

In the encyclopedia article, he used American urban planner Kevin Lynch’s urban theory, “The Image of the City,” to interpret how the landmarks, paths, nodes, edges, and districts are depicted in Tehran–filmmaker’s first-choice city in Iran. Goharipour reviewed the Iranian post-Revolutionary cinema and discussed several films that were made after 1979 and set in Iran. “These interpretations reflect on the conversations and transactions between characters from various socioeconomic classes and their urban environments,” he explained.

He was invited to write one of the first essays for Encyclopedia Iranica after speaking about “City in the Iranian Cinema” during the University of Toronto’s The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Lecture Series in summer 2021. When the university and the encyclopedia collaborated to publish an open-access digital compendium, Cinema Iranica, he was honored to contribute to the comprehensive and authoritative English language encyclopedia about the history, culture, and civilization of Iranian peoples from prehistory to modern times.

“Given that a considerable amount of human knowledge about the external world is attributed to visual perceptions, the power of movies to make believe is enormous. The fundamental components of films are people and their environments; therefore, they clearly offer a unique opportunity to study city-person transactions,” he said.

Students at Wooster benefit from Goharipour’s urban studies and cinema expertise. In the course Cities in Cinema, which he piloted and taught in fall 2021, they watched German, French, Italian, and Hollywood movies and interpreted them based on urban theory and other academic concepts. He frequently refers to movies in other classes and plans to include one or two films into his World Cities class instructions, “as cinema has an unparallel power in representing spatial phenomena,” he said.

Images are everywhere from news items to social media and movies to performances. “We convey and receive meanings through visuals and images…that help us make sense of our world and each other,” he said. “We need to contribute to this process by constructing new realities and decoding and interpreting those made by others. We must assimilate these practices into our teaching and research by regularly using visual tools and materials.

Posted in Faculty, News on February 22, 2023.

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