Race, Parenting and Identity in the Iranian Diaspora Tracing Intergenerational Dialogues

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Shirin Vossoughi


This paper traces intergenerational learning through a series of dialogues on race, parenting, and identity held with Iranian parents, grandparents and youth at a Persian language school located in the US. Drawing on ethnographic, interactional, and participatory design research methodologies, the analysis focuses on the forms of intergenerational sensemaking and social analysis that emerged over time and what they can teach us about (a) the intersections of parenting and racial identity within Iranian diasporic communities in the United States and (b) the complex forms of personhood (Gordon, 1997; Tuck, 2009), learning and becoming among Iranians raising children and grandchildren outside Iran. Bringing close attention to specific instances of talk as embedded in broader relational temporalities and dialogic arcs, findings illustrate the shifting ways participants articulated the educational needs of Iranian children living outside Iran, the emergence of complex and sometimes contradictory discourses on race and identity, and the ways participants worked together to disentangle self-defense and self-determination from the politics of respectability. The discussion considers the implications of complex personhood for the design, mediation, and interpretation of intergenerational sensemaking regarding race and identity within the Iranian diaspora, with attention to broader processes of community codesign.

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