Transformation in Social Identity, the Outcome of Modern Architecture and Urbanism in Khuzestan Oil Towns

Document Type : Research Article



Over the past century, there have been encounters between the Western and some of the peripheral countries with rich cultural background. This triggers serious debates among these nations. Introduction of modernism in Iran exported by western countries is expanding to Iranian nationality and Islam and affecting the elements of Iranian national identity; which is called crisis of identity by critics. In this way, realization of such encounter to introduce a unified frame of identity is considered as national identity, which has resulted in negligence of interests of some minorities. Moreover, this approach is causing political issues in some peripheral provinces of the country. In fact, each region has its specific climate, culture, and community; some have different experience with modernism. Among many, Khuzestan with rich cultural variety has experienced unique changes hosting invasion of British oil explorers since 1908. Thus the main goal of this article is to present a model of identity that is able to establish the relation between ethnic, regional, cultural and national identity; then uses this model to deal with Khuzestan’s confrontation with the modernism. Indeed the key question of this research is how modern architecture and urbanism influence the identity transformation in Khuzestan’s oil towns. By its unique features, the theory of social identity brings us a strategy to deal with the problem. Talking about social specifications, beliefs, values, behaviors, and distinctive attitudes of every community takes to identification of their social identity. The theory holds that human being tends to attend other groups by its nature leaving aside their probable differences or similarities. Moreover, each person has a chance to study their statue in different social groups. Through a descriptive analytical method and through library studies the present work tries to achieve a model of social identity. Three main constitutive levels including principles of worldview, leadership and community are considered in different definitions of society. Also these levels are divided into subjective and objective components. The final model is supposed to be featured with religion, environment (principles), tradition, culture, civilization (community), policy (leadership) and other elements of social identity and to discuss the relation between each element as well. Afterward, with the pattern along the historical documents regarding historical evolution in architecture and urbanism in oilfields, we discuss three stages of social evolutions (encounter, acceptance, stabilization) in oil towns (1908-1933, 1933-1951, 1951 until Iran’s revolution). Throughout three stages and along with introduction of industry, technology and welfare dwelling services from the West, natives have found their interaction with society, environment, and social order significantly changed. The results show that changes in architecture and urbanism in the oil towns had two reactions in people of this region. In spite of some problems in accepting new changes in the cities such as Shushtar and Dezful, tribal communities and rural areas have showed more positive attitudes toward the changes. The result is the evolution of social identity in oil towns and forming a new identity named “sherkati” in these towns. Generalization of the results obtained for a society with 70% of its population composed of rural and tribal populations to the whole country is worth more consideration. This may help studying identity of communities in different regions of the country.