When religion meets secularism in urban planning

One of Babak Manouchehrifar’s favorite places in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is just a city block on Prospect Street that hosts residences, a mosque, a synagogue, and a chapel. This will be unsurprising because the fourth-year PhD candidate’s analysis focuses on the interactions between metropolitan planning, secularism, and religion.

“I’m enthusiastic about the peaceful coexistence of communities with differing views on faith and secularism through metropolitan preparation initiatives,” claims Manouchehrifar, just who left their residence nation of Iran to analyze at MIT’s division of Urban research and thinking (DUSP). “This interest originates from my expert as well as personal experiences, pre and post visiting the U.S. in my opinion, this really is element of what MIT calls ‘building a much better globe.’”

Based on Manouchehrifar, planners deal with different components of faith and secularism in their daily methods considerably more frequently than they are doing within their scholastic instruction. Face to face, planners make use of communities of differing viewpoints, eg each time a host community opposes certain secular proposals or techniques of various trust groups, or when a band of residents requests spiritual exemption from zoning laws.

As well, these planners must work in the appropriate and governmental structures that authorize their particular work, for instance the spiritual Land utilize and Institutionalized individual Act of 2000, which bars planners from burdening a person’s no-cost exercise of faith.

“My research aims to spur further conversation on which I see like a useful problem, namely, just how should planners handle spiritual variations whenever their particular expert signal of conduct requires an especially ‘indifferent’ method,” Manouchehrifar states.

In his research, including a paper recently published inside record “Planning Theory and application,” that was selected as one of the five most useful papers published in the area of planning in 2018, Manouchehrifar critiques the conventional view that there’s a clear, simple distinction between religion and secularism inside training of metropolitan preparation.

“My goal is transcend the secular-religious dichotomy through planning viewpoint. We make an effort to show why these two categories are in fact inextricably linked and deeply entangled in planning rehearse; they be determined by both for definition,” he states.

Early constraints together with passion for the much better globe

Through his work, Manouchehrifar hopes to promote a much better understanding of the spiritual distinctions of worldwide communities from the adversarial rhetoric of war or dispute. This hope is grounded in the childhood experiences.   

Born in Iran in the verge of this Iranian Revolution and right before the Iran-Iraq War, Manouchehrifar’s childhood were held within a globe incompatible. He recalls thinking war ended up being typical because he performedn’t have another framework of research with which to compare their environment. But he along with his household performed imagine an unusual world, one out of which he would operate outside to football fields rather than bomb shelters.

“It had been a serious difficult time, but I happened to be element of a happy generation because when we became a teen, things begun to become more steady,” he recalls. The war finished when Manouchehrifar ended up being virtually 10, but his wartime experience sparked his enthusiasm for leading to a far more peaceful globe.

Before coming to MIT, Manouchehrifar obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil manufacturing and surveying from Isfahan University as well as a master’s level in metropolitan and local preparation from Shahid Beheshti University (SBU), both in Iran. His very first job after university was like a surveying engineer in Isfahan, in which he handled a highway project that was cutting through a low-income community.

He had been presented with an ethical issue as he ended up being told that homes would have to be demolished and their particular residents be displaced to clear the way for the construction associated with the highway. When he brought their concerns to his project manager, he was told it wasn’t their job as an professional to worry about the personal impact of work. This led Manouchehrifar to give up their task and pursue a career in metropolitan planning, thinking that it would allow him more understanding and capacity to consider the social effects of metropolitan tasks.

After working as a planner and training at SBU for seven years, Manouchehrifar along with his spouse, Pegah, relocated to Cambridge in 2013 so he could go after a master’s level in metropolitan planning and worldwide development at MIT. He completed this system in 2015 (their particular daughter, Danna, was also born at MIT today) and has since been working on his PhD. Studying when you look at the U.S., and at the Institute particularly, is a huge highly good knowledge for Manouchehrifar, however it hasn’t already been without its troubles.

Brand new constraints — and new possibilities

Manouchehrifar had been halfway through their PhD once the White home imposed its vacation ban in 2017. His preliminary study centered across the relationship between faith and preparation in Iran, and thus he’d to accomplish his fieldwork indeed there. But Manouchehrifar ended up being uncertain as to whether or when he can return to the States and finish his studies if he left.

Even though it had beenn’t easy, he redirected their research project to focus on the U.S. instead. “I was rather obligated to change program, nevertheless the results are also fruitful for my research since it has enriched my comprehension of this issue and provided me personally a far more nuanced relative lens,” he says. Around private amount, the influence regarding the vacation ban happens to be much harder for Manouchehrifar along with his household to deal with: “The disruption of scientific studies are something that we could handle some way. The disruption of family members life, on the other hand, is fairly unsettling and oftentimes paralyzing.”

Manouchehrifar says such constraints have actually motivated him to your workplace harder in the researches.

“i believe [these experiences] have actually strengthened my passion for creating a better globe through planning and intercontinental development projects. The things I chose to do, adhering to a period of contemplation and consultation specially with my advisor, Professor Bish Sanyal, would be to attempt to change these types of limitations into an intellectual power to perform study for a subject that is significant both for myself and my field of research,” he says.

Manouchehrifar features served being an instructor for 11.005 (Introduction to Overseas developing preparing) and contains already been a training assistant for four other classes. Sanyal states that Manouchehrifar’s students have actually praised him for generating “an atmosphere where everyone could easily get their ideas out and learn, and be challenged by one another.”

As he is not doing work, Manouchehrifar spends as much time as he can along with his wife and daughter. Your family specifically enjoys gonna parks and museums collectively. Manouchehrifar says he is grateful for every little thing his family members did for him: “i really couldn’t have done my studies without their help and sacrifices, and it’s also like the whole household actually obtaining a PhD.”