By Iman Fahimi
“Art” is a hard word to define. Generally—and across cultures—“art” is defined as the conscious use of skill and human imagination to create an experience, invoke a feeling, or convey a message. The essence of the human experience is to observe, discover, and marvel at existence itself. Artists capture and expand the human consciousness, employing various tools and media to encapsulate emotions and ideas into communicable pieces.
“Identity” is an ever-evolving phenomenon, comprised of individual and social components (i.e. gender, nationality, socio-economics, etc.) Humans identify with one another through shared interests, views and experiences. Hence, identity is subject to change with the times as people interact and the world becomes more globalized. Richard Alba and Victor Nee explain that assimilation is not simply the substitution of one cultural expression for another. Rather, it is an ever-continuing process in which the minority cultures absorb or incorporate elements of the dominant culture and create a hybrid cultural mix.
History of the United States is that of immigrants and pioneers. The “American Identity” has always been the melting pot that changes flavor with assimilation. The wave of immigrants after WWII has had an observable impact on making America a truly multicultural nation with many Hyphenated-Americans to enrich its identity. Hence, the “American Identity” is an ever-expanding spectrum, which is constantly redefined by introduction of new ideas and the process of assimilation.
Iranian-American identity is no exception. While many Iranian-Americans have become active contributors to the American public as leaders of science and business, there continues to be significant diversity among individual Iranian-Americans and their degree of assimilation into the overall population. Like members of other immigrant groups, Iranian-Americans have often experienced a feeling of “dual marginality.” [The sense of not completely belonging to either culture.] For many of these people, there has been a continued struggle as they attempt to define and redefine their identity within the confines of both cultures.
Iranian-American is a relatively new term, which holds the key to unlocking the potential of an entire community striving to create their version of the American Dream. As the budding Iranian-American community grows and sinks its roots deeper in American society, its narrative becomes more diverse and influential as a whole. The pursuit of carving out a hyphenated identity, which represents both aspects of two very distinct cultures effectively, falls on the artistic community to discover, define and embrace.
On February 9th, Aftab Committee and George Washington University assembled a great cast of panelists to discuss various aspects of “Iranian-American Art & Identity” and its implications for the future of the US.
Art, Identity, and the Iranian-American Narrative: A Panel Discussion
Moderated by: Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani
Panelsits: Dr. Persis Karim, Maybe Jairan Sadeghi, and Jessica Emami