Iranians in Texas: Migration, Politics, and Ethnic Identity by Mohsen Mobasher (review)
- Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies
- Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies
- Volume 2, Number 2, 2014
- Additional Information
Mashriq & Mahjar 2, no. 2 (2014), 139-142 ISSN 2169-4435© Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies 2014 BOOK REVIEWS MOHSEN MOBASHER, Iranians in Texas: Migration, Politics, and Ethnic Identity (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012). Pp. 211. $55.00 cloth, $25.00 paper. REVIEWED BY BY KAMBIZ GHANEABASSIRI, Religion Department, Reed College, Portland, OR; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org In this book, Mohsen Mobasher calls on social scientists to take a new look at the migration struggles of Iranian Americans in light of the recent surge in scholarship on Arab and Muslim Americans. He rightly points out that there are similarities in the ways in which Iranians, after the Iran hostage crisis, and Muslims, after 9/11, came under suspicion and had their civil rights compromised. For example, the requirement of the National Security EntryExist Registration System of 2002 that non-citizens from Muslim-majority countries register their whereabouts with the government resembles orders issued by Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti after the seizure of American hostages by Iranian revolutionaries requiring all Iranians to report their location and visa status to the nearest INS office. Anti-Iranian sentiments increased dramatically as a result of the hostage crisis just as anti-Muslim sentiments rose after 9/11. As attested by the 1981 publication of Edward Said’s classical study, Covering Islam, the Iran hostage crisis also brought to the fore the problems with media coverage of Islam and Middle Easterners in the United States, a problem that scholars have revisited in numerous publications since 9/11. Given these similarities, it is indeed surprising, if not negligent, for scholars of immigration and Middle Eastern diasporas not to pay more attention to the experiences of Iranian Americans. Iranians in Texas is by no means the final word on Iranian Americans, but it is a laudable step forward toward the incorporation of the distinctive experiences of Iranian Americans in U.S. immigration and ethnic history. The dearth of data on Iranian Americans and the lack of scholarly conversation partners for Mobasher are palpable throughout Iranians in Texas. Mobasher relies heavily on his personal experiences and even dedicates chapter 1 to his own life story. His story is typical and as such serves as an example of the lives of the tens of thousands of Iranian students who came to the United States and ended up remaining after the Iranian revolution of 1979 and becoming successful professionals. Yet, his personal experiences also color his conclusions in a way that is distinctive. He writes, “Despite my U.S. citizenship, thirty years of residence in this country, and 140 Mashriq & Mahjar 2, no. 2 (2014) professional affiliations and contributions, I feel socially and legally as vulnerable and insecure as I did when I had a student visa and was attending a Dallas high school during the hostage crisis in 1979” (p. 46). He substantiates this sentiment by telling readers about his selection for “‘random’ enhanced screening” at Reagan National Airport after 9/11 (p. 47). He then goes to reiterate his personal conclusions about the sociopolitical predicament of Iranian Americans in more generalized terms: “Although nearly three decades have passed since the hostage crisis, unfortunately the story of Iran and Iranian immigrants remains unpleasant, and the distorted generalizations and stereotypes about Iranians persist and are widespread in the United States” (p. 47). One could easily find Iranian Americans who do not share Mobasher’s sense of insecurity and take issue with his description of their story as “unpleasant.” After all, as Mobasher himself states, Iranian Americans are one of the most educated and well-off ethnic communities in the United States. By pointing to a correlation between Mobasher’s personal sentiments and his scholarly conclusion, I do not mean to suggest that his book is unscholarly. Rather, my point is that Mobasher is able to draw attention to how international politics affect immigrant communities’ self-understanding and integration into American society because he takes his own personal experiences seriously. In the remaining chapters of the book, in addition to his personal experiences, Mobasher also draws on governmental sources as well as surveys he conducted among Iranians in Texas, primarily in Houston, Dallas, and Austin. He...