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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


February 25, 2000

Changing Persians

Ms. Ghadrboland's points about identity in lieu of Ms. Hosseini's commentary is a very valid counter-argument to the position brought up originally about the very complex issue of identity.

A person being of a mixed-European/Iranian/Asian/Jewish/African or what ever-hyphenated "American" has many positive and conversely negative elements to it, as she pointed out. However the definitions of "citizenship" versus "nationality" as opposed to "ethnicity" seems to denote more clear definitions of belonging to one group simply based on birth or parentage or ancestral origin. Whereas the issue of "culture" being an outgrowth of "environmental history" including ancestry is more or less fluid.

What was considered an "accultured" person of a particular ethnic group, such as Persians, has continued to change definitions right before our eyes in this past century. For instance, my experience as essentially an American visiting family & friends in Iran was very unique in that I was able to see many facets of that culture being treated as a part of the country, essentially as an "ovrseas Iranian" which hardly any non-Iranian foreigner would have been able to.

But Ms Ghadrboland is completely right when she says it is "choices" people make to adapt to the different cultures available to us in the States... for instance the prevailence of the "popculture" created by the marketers and media in the United States has not only been considered a destructive force to "Anglo American Culture" but even to the Iranian clerics who view it as an assault on the very moral-fiber of Iranian Shia social fabric -- and from my observation of Iranian class-groupings which is more evident than here in the United States -- perhaps recent changes in Iran has shown a transformation to that more "accessible" materialism and hedonism of the market-culture to the greater population because of their new found freedoms to identify.

My question to these ladies and others is what are the core values and traditions, aside from "Persian pop music" or "paludeh" or even the language (which can be learnt) determine an "Iranian" in Iran versus outside -- and does this make an ancestral continuum with the essence of homeland, as the Jewish people or Chinese-diaspora have been able to do for centuries, and do these "values" include greater self-awareness of consciencious awareness as a person within a larger, more hostile bland American culture as it were, with the norms and expectations of the "ladies and lads" in Iran?

Just a thought.

Cyrus Raafat


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