Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community
A Project Funded by Cal Humanities and the Community Stories Project
Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Communityis a pilot project funded byCal Humanities through its Community Stories program which was completed in 2014. This project
documents and shares the stories of the Iranian diaspora community in Silicon Valley
to better understand the experiences of Iranian Americans in this region. The Iranian
diaspora community in North America has, in the last thirty years, become more populous
and visible in cities like Los Angeles and Toronto, Canada, but far less is known
about the Iranian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area. San José and the greater
Silicon Valley is home to the second largest community of Iranian Americans in California
and one of the largest populations outside of Iran.
Through this digital storytelling project, San José State's Persian Studies Program
has begun to capture and preserve the stories of Iranian exiles and immigrants who
have come to the US over the past three decades; we also include stories of second-generation
Iranian Americans. Over the last year, Dr. Persis Karim, director of the project,
and Clint Gilbert of the Center for digital storytelling have spent hundreds of hours
interviewing and editing these stories down to 5-8 minute digital stories about Iranian
Came here before the 1979 Iranian Revolution seeking an education and opportunity
Those who fled Iran in the aftermath of the revolution and the subsequent eight-year
long Iran-Iraq War
Those who were born to Iranian immigrants and have grown up largely as Americans and
Californians beneath the shadow of the U.S. hostage crisis and decades of hostility
between Iran and the U.S.
This project seeks to engage the narratives of the early Iranian immigrants and their
American-born children to understand how Iranian-Americans have been shaped by their
immigration, assimilation, and by a more recent impulse to be identified as an American
ethnic community. We also seek to understand how this community has increasingly adapted
to and employed the democratic institutions of the United States to help shape its
vision and visibility in the larger context of U.S. society, including the participation
in building organizations that advocate for their rights and interests. As tensions
have increased between the U.S. and Iran, and in response to the increasingly restrictive
political climate in Iran, Silicon Valley has also witnessed the arrival of a new
generation of Iranian immigrants in the past three years. These stories will help
us see how Iranian-Americans have become rooted in California and altered their experience
of community. This project will allow us to see and hear this community, which is
largely invisible until a major news headline highlights them, and to share their
individual and collective stories with the wider public. The project further enables
Iranian Americans to narrate some of their inter-generational stories that reflect
the challenges of immigrating under the duress of revolution, war, and social upheaval,
and the ways that their American-born children have come to see themselves as both
American and Iranian even in the post-9/11 era.
The ten digital stories here are part of a pilot of Iranian Americans in Northern
California. We seek additional support to continue this project.
Special thanks to Dr. Shahin Gerami, Nahal Iravani-Sani, and Lily Sarafan for additional support. Additional support to complete this project made possible with a grant from the Roshan
Cultural Heritage Institute.
This project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information, visit www.calhum.org.