Sociology of a Variable Geometry Memory: Iranian Exiles

It has been thirty three years since exiled Iranians who were eliminated from society in Iran settled in Europe and found safety in exile. How can we assess their memory? How does memory construct and modify over the course of time the memory of Iranian political exiles? How can life trajectories and social processes affect and transform their memory? The response to these questions inevitably leads us towards an analysis of the social dynamics of memory. What we have to contend with is not just a simple recording of memories pulled from oral histories. Our research is mainly centered on a sociological analysis of memory. This paper locates itself at a crossroads between two methodologies: the first has been gleaned from E. Goffman's concept of "moral career" and the second is heavily inspired by the sociology of M. Halbwachs where the supposed "collective" and "homogenous" memory forged during the Iranian revolution of 1979 has been shown to be to be ultimately subjective. In point of fact, memory breaks down progressively when the social frameworks for individual resocialization exploit different places of exile. Memory then transforms itself with due respect to the new social environments, and this is a specific feature of the life trajectories of those exiled.
Our research on the subjectivity of 150 Iranian political migrants in different countries in Europe (France, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom) has revealed that, despite their steadfastness and adherence to the same political family, an individual dimension nevertheless has emerged, engendering three different methods in the process of "memory's" adaptation to new social realities. Each of these methods displaces the locus of pain and the concomitant symptoms of anxiety and social rift. That is not to say they disappear. They operate differently and we want to show and outline this in our paper.