Although no exact figures have been calculated, estimates range between 6 and 8 million Iranians have left Iran since the revolution and far more have migrated as a result of economic and political crises over the past four decades. The majority of those Iranians live in a handful of countries in the West — primarily the United States and Canada, but also in countries in Western Europe such as Sweden, Germany, France and the U.K. and scattered throughout Asia and Australia. Today, Iranian Americans and other hyphenated Iranians of a second and third generation are articulating their identities, cultures and experiences and have gained recognition in a new field of Iranian diaspora studies. Hyphenated Iranians, however, are also challenged by renewed hostilities between the West and Iran, and a rising tide of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment around the globe.
Forty Years and More, to be held at San Francisco State University on March 29 and 30, will feature presentations and conversations about what those 40 years have meant for Iranians who now reside outside the boundaries of Iran. The center is also co-sponsoring/sponsoring two exhibitions of Iranian diaspora art in San Francisco including at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery (Part and Parcel) and at the Minnesota Street Project (Once at Present).
The Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies was established in 2016 with an endowed gift from Bay Area philanthropist Neda Nobari, herself an Iranian immigrant who came to Marin County exactly 40 years ago to start high school and who later graduated from San Francisco State University. “To see this conference take shape, to see what a diverse set of speakers and scholars have to say about the experiences of Iranians around the globe, couldn’t make me more pleased,” says Nobari. “We are so much more than the last 40 years of negative news headlines!”
“The amazing scholarship and research of those working in this field is beyond a single country, a single identity,” says Dr. Persis Karim, the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies’ inaugural director.“ This conference is an occasion to share our triumphs, struggles, and our human story with so many.”