Identity and Exile edition on Iranian diaspora

Cover: Identity and Exile

This month, a Twitter troll reminded me of this publication from 2016 that I co-authored with Prof. Halleh Ghorashi for the Heinrich Boll Foundation. He used it to call me a regime apologist for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Besides finding that amusing, I realized I had forgotten to re-post the publication link to my site when it came out. So here it is. It was actually really wonderful to be able to read the contributions of the other authors, scholars whose work I’d admired and/or people I’d gotten to know in the course of my work research.

Anyway, here’s the summary of our piece.

Los Angeles, the «unofficial capital» of the Iranian diaspora, forms the background
to the contribution by Halleh Ghorashi and Donya Alinejad, who diagnose
a change in the identity politics pursued by Iranian organisations in the US.
The authors describe the Iranian image of success, that is, a type of Iranian identity
in the US characterised by outstanding educational and job performance, as well
as wealth and elite status, as a central component of the Iranian diaspora’s identity
politics. This representation of «being Iranian» is underpinned by a selective interpretation of Iranian history and culture that bases Iranian identity exclusively on the pre-Islamic grandeur and power of the Persian Empire.

Like all types of identity politics, this discourse, which has been invented by wealthy groups of Iranian immigrants on the American West Coast and, from there, exported to other parts of the diaspora, has a dual function – internally, it forges an identity and strengthens a community by mobilising people around a self-image; externally, it presents a positive image of the group and aims to integrate it smoothly into wider socio-political dynamics. From this starting point, Ghorashi and Alinejad describe a second generation that is increasingly challenging and questioning the production of such images and identities by querying the Iranian community as well as the majority society.

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