The conditions and events leading up to and following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) contributed to a rapid dispersal of Iranians worldwide. Iranians who left Iran in the last 40 years have scattered to nearly every continent, creating a global population estimated to be between 4 and 6 million strong.
As this diverse global diaspora has matured and given birth to subsequent generations, the ways in which Iranians in their various countries of residence have become active in the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of diasporic life have emerged as rich sources of ethnographic inquiry. Emerging scholarship built upon long-term ethnographic fieldwork among Iranian communities across the world is engaging with new questions related to class, racialization, cultural identity, activism, and economic participation.
This panel highlights contributions to this new wave of ethnographic literature on the Iranian diaspora. The first presentation begins with one of the oldest communities of the diaspora, offering a historical trajectory of Iranian-American efforts to “bridge” Iranian diasporic cultural identity with an American mainstream identity. Through fieldwork among Iranians of Southern California across several decades, the authors show a shift between first- and second-generation approaches to questions of belonging, identity, and representation.
Questions of belonging in the American context have given way to new questions relating to personhood and participation beyond the exile context. The panel’s second presentation takes up these questions in relation to middle-class Iranians living and working in Dubai, where the inability to attain legal permanent residency or citizenship and a sense of displaced Iranian modernity have had significant impacts on individuals’ practices, particularly in the realms of real estate and urban development.
The third presentation highlights the relationship between local understandings of race and the impact these have on immigrants and their descendants. Through ethnographic fieldwork among Iranians working in anti-racist movements in Stockholm, this presentation offers an analysis of recent developments in Sweden and investigates the comparative racialization of Iranian immigrants.