Provision Policies as a Means of Deflective Governance in Authoritarian Contexts: The Case of Women-Only Parks in Iran

Nazanin Shahrokni, LSE
M. Ali Kadivar, Boston College

The 2000s mark the opening of women-only parks across Iran. According to official discourse, this policy constituted an act of provision, meeting the needs of women that had few opportunities to exercise or socialize outdoors in safe locations. However, a closer look to the geography of women-only parks indicates that these parks were opened in a particular selection of cities. This selective policy implementation opens up a series of questions such as which cities became the “beneficiaries” of such policies and why, what dictated prioritizing particular locations over others? Bringing together detailed data relevant to the rolling out of women-only parks, official announcements and relevant media coverage, complemented with archival work and discourse analysis, we offer a mapping of the distribution of parks in different cities across Iran. We demonstrate that there is indeed a correlation between the opening of women-only parks and the existence of a vocal and demanding civic body defined through a series of indicators. Additionally, our analysis suggests that there is a discrepancy between demands expressed by the local population and what is being provided by the state, one that official discourse and policy address through deflection. Building on the ‘authoritarian responsiveness’ literature, in this paper, we use what we term deflective governance to explain the mechanisms through which the state uses provision policies to deflect attention away from what it is incapable or unwilling to provide to what it is willing to provide; in the process needs and demands are redefined and rearticulated in ways that make state policies of provision appear relevant and significant.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 55. Capitalism, Patriarchy, and the Multi-Layered State