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The Threat of Automating Control: Surveillance of Women’s Clothing in Iran

Abstract

This chapter takes a spatial approach to urban surveillance of women’s clothing in Iran through a historical overview of hijab regulations after the 1979 revolution and the threat of automating such controlling measures. The research defines the forceful implementation of compulsory hijab as a case of spatial injustice, since it regulates, bars, and controls women’s access to public spaces. It applies the theory of abnormal justice to analyze the intersection of spatial justice with other forms of injustice such as gender-based injustice and, consequently, locates the discussion on spatial justice in a broader political framework. This critical intersectional approach to spatial justice is reflected in two examples of resistance against compulsory hijab. The first example, Gershad, is an application that uses collective mapping to locate moral police patrols, and the second is a campaign that encourages women to reclaim the public space by strolling without hijab, recording possible reactions and confrontations, and sharing the footage on social media. A thematic analysis of the social media posts by both projects demonstrates not only a strong interconnection with other forms of activism but also a manifest stance against spatial injustices of everyday life. Confronting social control through small data projects also highlights that it is not only control mechanisms that have extended their domain to virtual spaces but also resistance and opposition against such oppressive measures.

Keywords

  • Spatial justice
  • Surveillance
  • Women
  • Iran
  • Social control
  • Digital resistance

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Fig. 9.1
Fig. 9.2
Fig. 9.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    There are many documented accounts of women who have been arrested by the Guidance Patrols (see, e.g., Bidarzani Website, 2015; M, 2015; Pardis, 2011).

  2. 2.

    Literally means going around moral police patrols.

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Acknowledgments

This research was first published as a working paper titled Spatial|Data Justice: Mapping and Digitised Strolling against Moral Police in Iran as part of the “Urban Data, Inequality and Justice in the Global South” case studies (Akbari, 2019). The project formed part of a senior research fellowship funded by the University of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute with additional financial support from Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

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Akbari, A. (2021). The Threat of Automating Control: Surveillance of Women’s Clothing in Iran. In: Završnik, A., Badalič, V. (eds) Automating Crime Prevention, Surveillance, and Military Operations. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73276-9_9

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