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Haunts and Modernity in Iran [Patoq va Modernite-ye Irani]

Taqi Azad Armaki. Haunts and Modernity in Iran [Patoq va Modernite-ye Irani]. Tehran: Lowh-e Fekr (1384 [2005-2006]).

This book explores the “patoq,” or haunt, as a social institution in the modern history of Iran and an important part of the Iranian public sphere. Patoq is defined as “a situation in which people freely gather outside daily work to spend time on their interests which are independent from their jobs.” These places have been sites of resistance against the formal structure of daily life. Interaction in patoqs is based on oral tradition. The relationship between people is intimate and emotional. Their locations have been around cultural and academic centers and new streets . Issues such as the critique of tradition, government, colonialism, and despotism have been discussed in these circles.

The book goes through different sorts of patoq, classifies, and describes them. Traditional gyms [zur-khane] during Safavid era, coffeehouses during Qajar, literary and intellectual associations in the Pahlavi era, and coffee shops and shopping centers in the Islamic Republic era have been main sites of patoqs.

The formation of patoqs goes back to the Safavid era. With the rise of a powerful central government, the security of roads was to a certain degree guaranteed, and many caravansaries were built. These caravansaries and also gyms became places of gathering for people with a weak tribal identity. These were autonomous individuals.