Armenian Iranian identities in the institutional home visit : a case study
In recent years, many ethnic Armenians from Iran have come to the US as refugees, resettling in a diverse landscape that already includes large Armenian and Iranian diaspora communities. Soon after arrival, they also interface with US institutions in a home visit from a refugee resettlement case worker. In this thesis I adopt constructivist understandings of identity-in-interaction to examine the identity work that older Armenian Iranian immigrants do during these visits, reproduced here as life history interviews. I argue that Armenian Iranians use the home visit to discursively construct an Armenian Iranian identity that addresses the tension between institutional and community pressure to represent themselves as uniquely discriminated against in Iranian society while still identifying with an Iranian national identity. The more localized and temporary identities and interactional roles that speakers – including the researcher – adopt in the interviews also contribute to gender asymmetries in the interactions to the effect that men most often command the floor. Therefore, while the home visit format provides insight into the ways Armenian Iranians articulate an identity that is at least in part “Iranian” amidst normative pressures to do otherwise, it can also translate into an interaction that privileges men’s perspectives and allows them to largely determine its direction and content.