Early research on Iranians in the global diaspora has demonstrated specific contexts in which Iranians express transnational identity. Much of this research presents and configures “the community” as a harmonious whole through narrow frames of reference, such as ethnic institutions, economic enclaves, majority-minority assessment based on discrimination and prejudice, and inter-generational and gender change. This study addresses the Twin Cities’ Iranian community as a dynamic, dispersed body of relationships and interactions characterized by an institutional fission-fusion pattern with consequences for ethnic group consciousness and individual identification with and expression of Iranianness. I employ a national and gender identity approach to underscore how Iran’s vacillating political history has crafted modern Iranian men and women, first, in alignment with the West, and then along Islamic ideals. Community, consequently, expands and contracts according to global, micro-macro occurrences. A waning sense of identity incites a centripetal “fusion phase” of institutional life, uniting Iranians through the public celebration of pre-Islamic heritage, privately with extended family, and attempts to teach Persian, a critical tool to navigate the complexities of communication in a hierarchal culture. Paradoxically, the “fusion phase” presents obstacles in intra-cultural interaction, leading to a “fission effect.” Fissioning eludes national camaraderie and community involvement as individuals assess each other’s location in the social hierarchy. The analysis of these identity patterns has been explained using transnational approaches with an emphasis on associations forged in power-vying activities aimed to displace authority and reconfigure national narratives. This dissertation explores these social dynamics in the context of the centripetal fusion and centrifugal fission pattern to explain how Twin Cities’ Iranians cultivate community, despite geographic dispersal, through a shared, intimate micro-history forged in a portable ideology that displaces monolithic assumptions of tradition, identity, and belonging.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2016. Major: Anthropology. Advisor: William Beeman. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 557 pages.
“Assimulation” in the Land of Ten-Thousand Iranian Communities: Public Assimilation Strategies, Private Preservation Identities.
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