Multiple Modernities in Muslim Societies
Tangible Elements and Abstract Perspectives

Edited by: Modjtaba Sadria

Is there any such thing as modernity in Islamic societies and, if so, what are the identifiable elements of this modernity? Here, a leading group of thinkers and practitioners from diverse theoretical backgrounds pose the question of what it means to be modern – exploring notions of myriad ‹multiple modernities› that operate beyond the Western singular definition of modern civilisation.

This volume represents a major new contribution to the debate about modernity; this volume offers new perspectives and ways of considering experiences of modernity in non-Western societies. Questions about which aspects of civilisation might be identified as the tangible elements of modernity are discussed, both within the built environment – the cities, architecture, the material cultural heritage – and within the lived environment – in culture, politics and economics. The interplay between modernism, secularism and religion is explored and the view of the religious state and modernity as mutually exclusive is challenged.

While Muslim societies are chosen as the primary focus, the subject of the discussion has clear relevance to other cultural contexts and contributes to the wider debate on modernity. Rather than pose final solutions to the ‘problem’ of modernity within Muslim societies, the contributors instead create a space for the opening, questioning and recasting of the debate. This is an important contribution to the fields of Architecture, Cultural Studies, and Middle East and Islamic Studies.

Farrokh Derakhshani

As Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Derakhshani introduces the work of the Award and its core goal of framing architecture as a social act and responsibility. As the inaugural workshop in the Knowledge Construction series, the aim of the workshop is outlined as a means of addressing the most significant issues and debates relating to architecture in Muslim societies. Derakhshani gives an overview of the layout of the volume, which includes both the papers and the subsequent, rich discussion which formed the essence of the workshop.

Modernities: Re-posing the Issues
Modjtaba Sadria

Approaches to issues of modernity in Muslim societies – whether the possibility of Muslim modernities is supported or rejected – have generally framed these issues as problems that must be solved. The opening paper discusses possible alternative epistemological approaches to the study of a plurality of modernities, comparing the dominant problem solving approach with an alternative problem-posing approach. Through its ability to problematise existing orders of knowledge and produce new ways of thinking, it is argued that problem-posing offers a more fruitful method to investigate issues relating to modernities, architecture and Muslim communities.

From Civilisations to Multiple Modernities: The Issue of the Public Sphere
Armando Salvatore

Salvatore approaches the discussion of the possibility and characteristics of Muslim modernities through the notion of civilization, and asks if we can consider there to be an Islamic modernity as part of the problematic of multiple modernities. Using Habermas’s notion of the public sphere and communicative action, and critically assessing modernity in relation to democracy and secularism, it is suggested that there exist fundamental anti-modernities in the experiences of modernity. This essay explores the fundamental tension of Islamic modernity between maintaining their core legacies, while also coping with a hegemonic, Western modernity.

Iranian Islamic Modernities
Masoud Kamali

The third essay in the volume critiques the tradition of social science meta-narratives that frame modernity as an exclusively western invention, aligned with a linear model of development. The author provides a comprehensive overview of the history of modernization in Iran, examining in particular the changing role of Islam and the relationship between civil society and the state. Kamali argues that the concept of multiple modernities opens the way to generating more socially and historically specific understandings of modernities.

Why Critical Modernism?
Charles Jencks

The contribution from Jencks discusses modernity from the perspective of critical modernism and its development and expression within art and architecture, with its intrinsic characteristics of skepticism and disenchantment. It is argued that the differences between forms and critiques of modernism to a large extent operate within the same discourse; they are ‘prefix-modernities’. This essay questions whether modernity can ‘grow up’ and move beyond this.

From Critique in Modernity to Critique of Modernity
Modjtaba Sadria

Looking from a non-political perspective at issues of modernities, Sadria underlines the social recognition of human autonomy as a prerequisite for criticism and self-criticism. The essay argues that criticism is an important tangible element of modernity, and asks how we can understand criticism as an ontological tool. A model for understanding the concept of criticism is proposed that highlights four archetypal forms of criticism, discussed in relation to two key axes: political orientation and the position of the critic. The degree to which these forms of criticism reflect underlying premises of modernity while at the same time contesting them is outlined.

Counter Space of Islamic Modernity
Homa Farjadi

The essay outlines the difference between the discourses of modernization and modernity and discusses the possibilities for lived spaces that emerge from each. Challenging conventional approaches to architecture and urban planning, the notions of ‘counter-design’ and the ‘open city’ are proposed as key ways to negotiate and bring together these two discourses in new forms of spatial modernity. The author offers a fascinating discussion of both planned and unexpected instances of this spatial modernity in relation to Islamic cities.

A Destructive Vacuum: The Marginalisation of Local Knowledge and Reassertion of Local Identities
Farid Panjwani

What are the impacts of the privatization and globalization education on local contexts? This essay discusses how increasingly universalised standards of education have led to a dissociation of education – particularly higher education – from local and national contexts. The resulting marginalization of local knowledge and local identities is discussed, as well as the space this creates for the flourishing of Islamist ideology and affiliation. A reconceptualisation of education to address these issues is outlined.

Modernity: Keep Out of Reach of Children
Fatemeh Hosseini-Shakib

This essay warns – from an insider’s perspective – of the continued presence of ethnocentrism in discourses and critiques surrounding modernity/modernization/anti-modernity. The continued presence of homogenized representations of Muslim societies is discussed, particularly in relation to Iran and Islam. The author calls for alternative critiques of modernity that adequately recognize the nuances and diversity of representations in the Muslim world.

Multiple Modernities: A Theoretical Frame
Masoud Kamali

Furthering the critique of west-centered notions of modernity, Masoud Kamali argues that the legacy of these meta-narratives still exists to a large extent in social science theory in both western universities as well as their counterparts in Muslim societies. The author outlines several theoretical suggestions that challenge these established paradigms, and contribute towards the foundation of a scientific framework that ensures a diversity of perspectives through which to understand modernity in different societies.

Some Reflections on “Tangible Elements of Multiple Modernities”
Deniz Kandiyoti

Reflecting on the key debates of the conference, Professor Kandiyoti argues that both simple and theoretically complex examples of tangible elements of modernity can be identified, and offers a succinct conceptual distinction between the terms ‘modernization’ and ‘modernity’. The author discusses the possible parameters of a theory of multiple modernities, and the need for it to address the ethical and political dimensions of the diverse manifestations of ‘modernities’.

Multiple Modernities in Contemporary Architecture
Jeremy Melvin

Melvin’s essay provides an overview of the discourse of modernity within the discipline of architecture. The particular characteristics of architecture’s modernities and how they interact with modernity in a traditional sense are discussed. The evolution of the theory of “modernism” and the historically contingent circumstances from which it arose are laid out, as well as the forms of modernity that have been inherent to architecture.
Entangled Modernity: Multiple Architectural Expressions of Global Phenomena: the Late Ottoman Example
Stefan Weber

The volume concludes with a discussion of the expressions of modernity in the architectural heritage of the Late Ottoman Empire, using the approach of an “entangled modernity”. Following a revisionist trend of historiography, this approach argues for a shared but multiple heritage. Using examples of new forms of housing and the suq in Damascus, the author argues that rather than assigning to modernity a set of binding criteria, the dimensions of modernity and social change need to be first understood within local contexts.

To order Multiple Modernities in Muslim Societies from IB Tauris click here.


  گاه‌گاهي دانشجويان پيشين به دوستان خوبي تبديل مي‌شوند. Yideyoshi TABUCHI از اين زمره است. متني که در زير مطالعه مي‌کنيد اهميتش چندجانبه است. يکي از آنها را که مايلم تاکيد کنم ياد گرفتن دوست داشتن مردم عادي‌ست.


Today I’d like to have a talk with you about the externality. The
externality is always a great issue to those who are conscious of it. The
consciousness over the externality, however, does not guarantee that we can avoid the danger of excluding people. To the contrary, the more we are conscious of it, the more we feel that we are fatally excluding people
Today, I would like to tell you my own story concerning to the externality

I guess some of you know that I have started to work as a newsboy a couple of months ago. From the beginning, this challenge was deeply related to the sense of «lack of externality,» especially when I work for my research topic. As a researcher, I am working for the limitations and possibilities of subjectivity in the capitalistic society. For this purpose, I intentionally talk about the marginalized. People who are forced to work in a worse condition, the housewives whose “labor” haven’t been estimated enough, the aged who have been determined as if they were less productive to the society, and the youth excluded from the regular employment, etc, etc. But when I talk about them, I am always wondering whether I am really speaking THEIR language. I always feel that I’m speaking quite distant words to them.

 Whenever researchers research on anything, they inevitably objectify their subject of research, and, at the same time, privilege themselves as «a man of observing.» If, as Jean-Paul Sartre says, our consciousness is always «a consciousness of something,» a consciousness is inevitably to stand outside of the very things that the consciousness is conscious of. Therefore, for researchers, being together with their subject of research even when they are talking about them is always one of the most difficult tasks.

Thus, the very motive of my «engagement» was a sense of duty to know the life of my research target, which I ought to have been well versed in.This way, my newsboy life started. Now, I think I’d better describe the daily work of newsboy. We start working from 1:00 in the morning, and finish around 5:00, and that means we work almost 4 hours a day. All through the 4 hours, we have to carry almost 300 of newspapers. And it is really hard work. In addition, we have NO weekly holiday. Needless to say, before I finally came to manage to get my work done in 4 hours after three months and half of «discipline,» it took me 5-6 hours a day!!.

Anyway, describing the toughness of news delivery is not today’s story. But the story goes along with my internal fluctuation about the toughness. Going through my field note, I can trace my interpretations of this work. So now, let me trace back my filed note for a while.

October 4th, a week after the first day, I already observed a serious
shortage of communication. I wrote that in the office even the daily
greetings were rarely exchanged. This has been, and remains to be, one of
the most important concerns for me. According to my note, people working for the news delivery not «do not exchange greetings,» but they are not expected to do so. This, of course, means they are not expected to be human. This kind of interpretation of mine surely belongs to the genealogy of Marx. In October 29th, my note was about one colleague who had just left off. I wrote how few things I knew about him. I didn’t know his name, I didn’t know what he did, I didn’t know where he lived, and I didn’t know why he quitted.
Actually, there was even no announcement when he left. Suddenly, one
faceless man didn’t come, and a few days after, anther faceless man started
to work. I wrote there is no function as human, but only human as function.

My field note went on and on in the same tone. Then, something had happened. I don’t know what exactly had happened to me, but my tone gradually started to change. Firstly, I started to show my confusion about always criticizing the news delivery. And then I ended up being unable to write anything. I knew that this happened along with the process that I had been «becoming» newsboy. I got skilled, I came to understand the system, I started to speak jargon, and above all, I came to know the people. I could have analyzed my colleagues claiming that, for example, their humanities were alienated. But when I got to know them personally, I found myself in the relation of the very humanities. And more than everything, I couldn’t call them «they,» for now «they» became «we.»

If I can describe the situation, my feeing was like, «how I could conclude
that ‹they› were alienated, while I knew that ‹we› are such living. How
could I give myself the authority to declare that they were this, not that.»
In short, I lost my words.

I think there were at least two aspects behind the change. I was changed on the one hand, and I changed on the other. Several experiences made me «within» the field, and I was changed from «a man of observing» to «a man of observed.» Moreover, I also changed the field. The very existence of myself inevitably operated the field, and somehow changed it. Therefore, the people I saw was no more the people I had seen before. Indeed, I came to feel that the communication in the office started to increase, and I knew that I myself, my talkative character, played not small role for that. This was really, I say really, magnificent experience. Strangely, while I lost my language for criticism, I felt like I got the externality within my body.

It doesn’t mean, however, that my criticisms in the field note lost its
legitimacy. NO! To the contrary, it does have legitimacy, though partly it
may be. Actually, I knew that my sense of criticism was right even when I
was loosing my words. The criticisms of my field note have been legitimate, even to the present day, the day I lost my words on the issue. Moreover, I do not intend to say «stop talking.» I can’t stop talking. And I won’t stop talking. Maybe I am on my way to go further. On the process to find more appropriate words, talked in more appropriate way.

Anyway, something I can say at this stage is this. However important
critical sensibilities and criticisms are, sometimes the point where
critical sensibilities are rooted, and criticisms cease is more important.
There, we can absorb the externality, and assimilate it to the very bodies
of ourselves.

This was the end of first half of my presentation. Now I want to talk about
small interview to my parents, about how they change after I started working as a newsboy.

First of all, both of my parents told me that they had no interest in news
delivery before I became newsboy. Both of them emphasized that my decision had a strong impact on their daily thoughts. But, there were also very interesting differences between my father and mother.

My father, who was the manager of major Japanese company and now retired, honestly confessed me that he had a negative image on news delivery. He said that he thought it «the bottom.» My father was born in a very countryside of Okayama prefecture, and went to Tokyo when he entered the university. Like many other young men from countryside at that time, my father also hated the «backwardness» of where he came from. I believe that it may influence his favor to white-collars, and his soft and reserved prejudice against blue-collars.

Therefore, I can easily imagine a small typhoon hitting him when I went home and said, «by the way, I started news delivery.» So it was no surprise to me that he thought news delivery was the bottom work. What really surprised me was, that he said he now tried to say «thank you» to them as much as possible. My mother smilingly said «your father now has a chat with delivery boys.»

My father was still insisting that his «bottom image» of news delivery did
not change. But he also admitted that he now came to concern working
condition issue. He said he unconsciously checked the news that he had
passed through before. «Now whether forecast is the most important news for me, ’cause rain might be the biggest enemy for newsboys,» he said and

My mother’s case was bit different. My mother didn’t go to university, but
she was very sensible woman. I’ve heard that she was one of the top-level
students of the top-level high school. She could have gone to university,
but the time did not allow her.

My mother told that she did not have a negative image on news delivery. She said she always had a feeling of gratitude to them. In her case, change was brought in her intellectual interests. She was now interested in news
delivery as a vocation. How is the working condition, how much do they earn, how many days off do they take, who do pay for the gas, and are all these fair?

Anyway, the common feature for them is, that now they see newsboys in front of them, not in somewhere of this society. They see the continuity between their life and news delivery. And all these things could not happen before I started news delivery.

Here, we see strange phenomenon. While I lost my words for criticisms, my parents got the words for the externality. While I thought I lost the way to speak up for the externality, I was successful more than ever in telling my parents about the externality of newsboys.

Now, let me tentatively conclude that I got the externality, and I could
also hand it down to my parents, and all that happened at the point where I lost my critical words.»




What is a good coffee shop? What criteria would you use to define a good coffee shop? Would it be the quality of the coffee? The quality of service? The space and surroundings? Maybe its accessibility? What exactly is a good coffee shop? Is it possible to have a universal definition of it, so that in every city, anywhere in the world, all the good coffee shops would be the same and would share the same criteria? But – and we always need a ‘but’ – maybe a good coffee shop is, first of all, a place that you like to go back to; a place that you enjoy to be. A place that you are prepared to travel a long distance to, even though the decoration a bit tired, the chairs or benches are not so comfortable, and the service might be very so-so, but there is something that makes you want to go back there. At least, this is how I would define it.

I asked a friend to give me a list of her favourite coffee shops. She is a very demanding person, but we share this same approach to defining a good coffee shop. And so, I give you a list of the best coffee shops in Tehran, as she gave it to me. If you use coffee shops, if you care about them, and if have a favourite that you like to return to again and again, please add it to the list.


رستوران چارمیز در چهارراه کالج

رستوران کوچکی است که در اوایل اسفند ماه ۸۶ در خیابان حافظ، کمی بالاتر از چهارراه کالج و نبش کوچه آرژانتین گشایش یافته و رضوانه، مدیر و آشپز و پیشخدمت چهارمیز در آن، اسپاگتی گیاهی سرو میکند. فضای کوچکی دارد که چهار میز دو تا چهار نفره را در خود گنجانده است.


خانواده اسماعیل‌پور، آقا فری و همسرش زهرا خانم و گاهی دخترهایش، همین بیخ گوش ما در خیابان فریمان، نزدیكی‌های طالقانی قهوه‌خانه کوچکی را می‌گردانند که می‌شود ظهرها را در آن گذراند. قهوه‌خانه یکی از نشانه‌های رو به فراموشی شهرهای بزرگ و خاصه تهران است که هر روز از تعدادش کاسته می‌شود.


شمال چهارراه مژده در خیابان نیاوران، در قرمز پُر رنگی شما را به جهانی ورای لذائذ عادی زیست هدایت می‌كند. محیط لانژ همانطور كه از نامش بر می‌آید، بی‌شیله‌پیله است و آرام. یله‌گاهی است با سقف بلند ِ اُریب، نورپردازی ظریف، و موسیقی روح‌افزا كه به راحتی از جاز كوبایی به پینك‌فلوید می‌لغزد. دكوراسیون مینمال، میزهای چوبی و صندلی‌های چرمیِ تیره‌رنگ را در كنار دیوارهای روشنی قرار داده است كه برشی از آهن با زاویه آنرا قطع می‌كند و حس و حالی را بوجود می‌آورد تا ناخودآگاه با اولین حضور میهماندار  سیاه‌پوش بر سر میزتان سفارش م. با یخ بدهید.

کافه ۷۸

در خيابان آبان، میان این کافه‌نشینان جماعت فرهنگ و هنر سهم بسزایی دارند.


خيابان فلسطين شمالی را سربالا برويد و از يکی از کوچه‌های غربی خود را به خيابان کبگانيان برسانيد و در اواسط نبش خيابان پنجم کنج را بيابيد.


خیابان گاندی ،موسيقی کلاسيک و قهوه ترک


در خيابان سى‌‌تير (قوام السلطنه سابق)، كمى بالاتر از كوچه مصريها، كه سَردرِ خانه ايرج ميرزا را هنوز مى‌توان در آن جستجو كرد و درست روبروى كوچه‌اى كه انديشمند و محقق نامدار مجتبى مينوى روزى در آن زندگى مى‌كرده (كوچه رحمتى جاهد، يا نوبهار)، قهوه‌خانه‌اى خواهيد يافت كه در نوع خود در تهران منحصر به فرد است. گُل‌رضاييه.


کافه‌ای بسيار ساده است که قريب به دو دهه‌ای می‌شود که در انتهای خيابان جم قرار گرفته. در محيطی مستطيل شکل و بدون هيچ زرق و برقی و در آن تنها به ضروريات پرداخته شده که اتفاقاً اين خود بسيار زيباست.


خیابان فرشته،میدان فرشته

کافه گالری

تجریش، چهارراه حسابی

کافه و اسنک

خیابان قائم مقام، ابتدای خیابان جم