Politicization and Racialization: Iranian American Political Participation and Identity Formation
- Delshad, Archie
- Advisor(s): DeSipio, Louis
This dissertation provides an exploratory, descriptive, and empirical analysis of the case of Iranian Americans. I investigate the historical trajectory that has contributed to the largest Iranian American diaspora outside of Iran settling in the United States. I provide a primer on the case of Iranian Americans by examining the history of Iran, including the periods before and after Islam, the major cleavages of immigration, the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath, and a description of the ethnic and religious groups in Iran. I compiled two unique datasets in the process: the Iranian American Survey Project (IASP) and the Iranian American Interview Project (IAIP). The former contains 427 unique survey respondents and sought to understand the political participation of the Iranian American community specifically. The latter is composed of 50 unique interview participants and is more focused on the question of racial/ethnic identity. In Chapter Three, I discuss the relative lack of political participation amongst the Iranian American community. I argue this is due largely to the lack of democracy in Iran and a failure to assimilate into the political norms of the United States. In Chapter Four, I discuss the formation of identity and find a complicated process that I have modeled as blending and opting, in which Iranian
Americans are blended either in or out with whites and choose to opt in or out of their cultures. Since Iranian Americans belong to the category of honorary whites (Bonilla-Silva and Glover 2004), their ability to navigate the border of white and nonwhite depends largely on their desires to do so. Managing the duality of their ethnicity also hinges on how Iranian Americans are perceived and racialized by others. The results herein are not unique to Iranian Americans; I believe that the case of Iranian Americans is an important one for scholars of assimilation, political participation, and race and ethnicity.