Talking to America: Iranian Communities in Southern California


Talking to America Graphic

Southern California has been home to the largest Iranian diasporic population for more than four decades. The area saw a growth of new Iranian immigrants in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a result of the Iranian Revolution and establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. The revolution and its outcome led many to flee from Iran due to their ties to the former Shah, their religious or political orientation, or simply the desire to avoid the turmoil of the revolution and the ensuing 8-year war with Iraq. Due to this major wave of migration, the population of Iranians in the U.S has grown from less than a hundred thousand in the late 1970s to an estimated one million in Southern California alone.

This exhibit looks at various aspects of Iranian-American lives in Southern California and the religious, political, and cultural diversity within the community. The images and images feature a range of practices that have been maintained, modified, or fully reinvented in the US context after migration. The exhibit is the result of one year of field research in Southern California during 2017-18 and summer 2021, documenting how a community with heterogeneous religious, political, and ideological orientations is recontextualizing Iranian ways of life—what one may call Iranian traditions—in the United States.

The images and videos aim to portray the diversity and complexity of an immigrant community that is often the subject of misconceptions and stereotypes in the US and caught in the political crossfire between the two countries. Some images also depict the ways in which Iranian immigrants utilize the space of their public events (such as Nowruz celebrations, Shia processions, or political rallies) to negotiate with the US political and media discourses at a time of rising political tensions.

Exhibition Credits:

  • Brad Duncan (Metadata and Exhibit Support – USU Libraries)
  • Dr. Ehsan Estiri (Photographer, Curator, Video Editor –USU English Department)
  • Shay Larsen (Graphic Designer – USU Libraries)
  • Dr. Afsane Rezaei (Photographer, Curator, Exhibit Design –USU English Department)
  • Deven Salisbury (Copy Editor – USU Libraries)
  • Becky Thoms (Faculty Exhibit Support – USU Libraries)
  • Alexandria Ziegler (Graduate Project Assistant—Metadata and Exhibit Design)

Preferred citation for this exhibition is:

Afsane Rezaei and Ehsan Estiri. “Talking to America: Iranian Communities in Southern California” exhibition, Utah University Libraries, 2022. http://exhibits.usu.edu/exhibits/show/tehrangeles 

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