Tehran, The New Identity of a Wrongly Known Capital

Lecture by Bernard HOURCADE, Directeur de recherche, CNRS, France

November 17, 1999

Unit 5, Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo



Dr. Bernard Hourcade, a specialist in Iranian geography, is a leading scholar of Iranian Studies in France. Researchers funded by the French government receive their funding through CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and are able to form specialized research groups under CNRS. "Monde iranien", composed of Iranologists, is one such group. Dr. Hourcade is the group leader of "Monde iranien", and is one of the editors of Atlas d'Iran (Paris, 1998), an important collection of topographical surveys of Iran. On this occasion, Dr. Hourcade flew to Tokyo to attend a symposium held by the United Nations University and kindly agreed to speak at the University of Tokyo during his stay.


Dr. Hourcade began his lecture with a historical survey of Tehran and explained how mass immigration from Azerbaijan distended Tehran's population. Historically, the upper and wealthy classes lived in northern Tehran, while the populace, including the immigrants, lived in the south.


Recently, however, Tehran has seen some changes. The ever-increasing immigrant population are now from areas other than Azerbaijan, and central Tehran is developing into a residential area for a newly emerging middle class. Also, the dichotomy of the wealthy in the north and the poor in the south has started to lose its validity; for example, a concert hall was recently erected in the south. As a result of this gradual change in city structure, residents of Tehran have come to identify with the term "Tehranian".


Many questions were then posed to Dr. Hourcade, especially about the Tehran suburbs and the identity issues of the suburban residents. Even at the reception after the lecture, in a Japanese style pub-restaurant, these discussions continued (in English, French, Persian, and Japanese), and Dr. Hourcade became acquainted with the ability, eagerness, and passion shown by some of the younger Japanese researchers and their work.


Report by HANEDA Masashi