Negotiating on the Name of One’s Nationality through a Double-voiced Word of Persian vs. Iranian by Immigrant Iranians

An immigrant’s everyday life includes constant negotiation of his place of origin vs. his current position. He regularly defines himself by introducing his place of origin to the people of other origins, as well as to the people of the same origin. An apparently simple word for the name of a country or nationality has become the site of a serious struggle among immigrant Iranians.
In this paper I examine Iranian Immigrants’ use of the term “Persian” as the tool for voicing other’s voice; hence contrasting different points of views. I follow Jane Hill’s definition of the word as the fundamental analytic unit for the analysis of dialogue that is uttered by a voice, which by itself is a point of view on the world. Thus, word can be the tool of dialogic engagement with other voices.
I employ Bakhtin’s translinguistic term of “double-voiced” utterance to analyze the function of the word “Persian” as used by Iranian immigrants when referring to their nationality. In this context the word “Persian” is a “double- voiced” utterance that does not just refer to the object- that is people from Iran or Iranian origin- but it rather takes a clear position against another word- that is “Iranian”- used by other Iranian immigrants, or sometimes by the same person in other situations. For the purpose of this research, I will administer a survey among a sample of the community of Iranian immigrants mostly living in USA to gather data through questionnaires and interviews to elicit information about their choice of the word –Iranian or Persian- when talking about their nationality and their reasons behind it. Their stories can help in understanding the various positions that can be taken by Iranian immigrants just by using one single word in their conversations. The data can contribute to elaborate what each word, “Persian” v.s. Iranian, associates with at socio-political level. Within the framework of sociolinguistics methodology, then, I apply Bakhtin’s “double-voiced” concept to discuss how by choosing one word against the other in a conversation, the Iranian immigrant negotiates his origin, expresses his socio-political view, and takes position toward other views in the context of living in diaspora.