Projects and Initiatives
Please contribute to our ongoing projects:
· Oral History Project
Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community is a pilot project funded by Cal Humanities in March 2012 through its Community Stories program. This project will document and share the stories of the Iranian diaspora community in Silicon Valley to better understand the experiences of over thirty years of Iranian-American presence this region and to share those stories in an online format. 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 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, but they remain largely unseen as a group.
Through this digital storytelling project, San José State's Persian Studies Program will capture and preserve the stories of exiles and immigrants who came here over the past three decades as well as their American-born children. Our team of interviewers will help to find and share the experiences of those who:
- 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.
If you have a unique story, want to share your photos, letters, and experiences, please contact the Persian Studies Program at SJSU. We will host a public event to share and discuss how digital storytelling can be a valuable tool for sharing personal stories that are part of the larger Iranian diaspora experience.
With support from the Silicon Valley Center for Global Studies, SJSU's newly-established Persian Studies program launched an ongoing survey in spring 2012 to gather important statistical and qualitative information about the interests and needs of local students and members of the Silicon Valley Iranian-American community. Through a survey initiated through a collaboration between SJSU's Persian Studies program and the Survey Policy and Research Institute (SPRI), directed by Melinda Jackson, this survey will gather information about the kinds of concerns, needs and interests that affect those of Iranian heritage and those who wish to know more about Iran and Persian culture through SJSU's academic offerings. The Iranian Studies survey, developed by SJSU faculty and directed by Professor Shahin Gerami (Associate Director of Persian Studies and Director of Women's Studies at SJSU) will help SJSU to determine and plan the long-term vision of the Persian Studies program so that it reflects the communities we serve. A further goal of this survey data collection is to identify and plan for future partnerships between the university, community organizations, and individuals who want to contribute to and help foster a viable long-term program of Persian Studies at a time when there is a clear need for educational resources and tools to educate future generations about Iran, Persian civilization, and the necessity of dialogue between the U.S. and Iran. Dr. Gerami, who has conducted numerous survey projects and has a background in sociology, will compile and analyze this survey data in January 2012 and share her findings here. Her interest is also in building on the Census 2010 data where, for the first time, Iranian Americans were asked to identify themselves and answer direct questions about their experience as ethnic Americans.