Iran is a highly diverse society, which is comprised of ethnic and religious minorities. While it is overwhelmingly Muslim (around 97 percent), only about fifty percent of the population are native speakers of Persian; ethnic and religious minorities include Azeris, Turkemans, Armenians, Baha’is, Jews, Sunni Muslims, Assyrians, Zoroastrians, etc. Especially since the emergence of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925, the state tried to incorporate the minorities and recruit them to the nation-building project. The reactions varied from separationist tendencies to active participation in shaping the new Iranian inclusive identity.
The proposed panel examines four different angles of modern Iranian identity, in the course of three different periods. Our panel first looks at the early Pahlavi period (1925-1941) through the experiences of Baluch and other minorities in the frontier of Baluchistan. Through the case of this frontier region where neither colonial India nor Iran had solid control, it examines how the development of transportation infrastructure simultaneously pulled the nation together and tore it apart as the improved movement of Baluchs and Sikhs destabilized the region.
The second paper focuses on the different identities espoused by the Kurdish population in the post-WWII era. In the midst of an internal rift, two different Iranian-Kurdish identities characterized by diverging religious proclivities took prominence in the internal discourse. This paper analyzes this discourse through reading the texts and political publications that generated this particular national identity.
The third paper focuses on the Iranian national identity among the Jewish communities throughout the M.R Pahlavi era (1941-1979). This paper examines how the Jews drew the lines between different identities that emerged in this period and two contesting national movements, that allegedly conflicted: Iranian and Zionist identities. This conflict was resolved by separating religious and cultural identities, so that in the Iranian public sphere they emphasized their being repositories of the ancient and genuine Iranian culture, and within the Jewish community they cemented the notion that Iran is the homeland and Jerusalem (Zion) is the Qiblah.
The fourth paper presents the case of Afghan migrants in Iran in the post-revolutionary era. This paper analyzes three films that deal with the struggle of the Afghan migrants in Iran, and how they portray cultural commonalities between Iranians and Afghans—thereby reframing Persian-language-based identity in a transnational scope.