As the number of Iranians in diaspora continues to grow, so too has the social scientific study of these dispersed populations. Social scientists have approached the study of the Iranian diaspora from a variety of disciplines and theoretical trajectories that increase our understandings of the everyday lives of Iranians in the U.S. and beyond. This panel offers four such presentations, providing a selection of the latest research on Iranians in the variety of spaces they inhabit. Each presentation, whether theoretical, ethnographic, or sociological in focus, explores the ways in which ethnicity and identity are implicated in the lived experiences of Iranians outside of Iran.
The panel begins with a theoretical contribution on the formation of a politicized ethnic identity, studied among second generation Iranian Americans. The author complicates previous notions of reactive ethnicity to argue that experiences of discrimination among Iranian Americans are impactful not only upon those with direct experience, but also upon co-ethnics who may then invoke what she calls a reactive ethnic option that facilitates politicization.
Ethnic and racial tensions are also a focal point for the second presentation, in which she investigates notions of cultural “’purity,’ race, and attendant national anxieties about Iranian immigrants in American neighborhoods.” Through an analysis of the historical racialization of Middle Eastern Americans alongside the often xenophobic comments and captions of UglyPersianHouses.com, she argues that the ethnic and racial tensions evident in Beverly Hills are part of a longer historical trajectory of legal and political enactments of imposed ethnic segregation.
Moving beyond the American context, the third presentation, a study among Iranian cultural producers in Stockholm, Sweden suggests that multiple regimes of power (local, state, transnational) are asserted among and upon diaspora members in ways that vitally influence their practices and assertions of ethnic identity and diasporic citizenship. This presentation offers an ethnographic analysis of the ways in which organizers, artists, and community members negotiate and engage with local understandings of multiculturalism, state partnership, and diaspora itself.
The authors of the final presentation offer an examination of English-language online diasporic media among Iranians and Kurds to explore the “competing rhetorical moves made by those seeking to take a diasporic position.” Diasporic identities, they argue, are produced and re-imagined through these news sites, with political and diplomatic implications. Their study concludes our panel and contributes a particularly fruitful case to the study of media and diaspora.