GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Iranian migration in Dubai:the case of “Achami” migrants
Paper Proposal Text :
Migration between Iran and the southern coasts of the Gulf is not a recent phenomenon. For centuries, families and transnational Sunni Arabs or Persian both Sunnis and Shiiaa have immigrated from southern regions of Iran to the Arab coast, constituting large transnational communities whose presence is now visible in the urban landscape of new cities of the young Arab Gulf States.These populations have bound relations with those of the southern coast of the Gulf and benefited from their “double belonging” status by contributing to the regional economy which characterizes the southern territories of Iran and the Gulf islands. These exchanges were limited, at first, to areas along the Gulf notably in Lengeh, in the Islands and in the eastern region until Baluchistan. They expanded during the 20th century toward the center of the Iranian continent, including some towns such as Evaz, Bastak, Khonj to name a few; in Fars province and near Shiraz, almost due to their common obedience to Islam, Sunnism. The political and economic changes in both Iran and the Arab countries led to a new wave of migration expanding the transnational ties from the small towns of southern Iran to the major Persian culture dominated metropolises toward the southern shores of the Gulf; particularly in the UAE and Dubai where the traditionally positive immigration policies toward Iranian nationals stands out from the rest of Gulf States significantly (at least until a very recent date). In this paper, however, we will only focus on the migration from the south of Iran which has been based more on shared values and a sense of community between the two littorals. While much research on the Gulf has evoked the fluidity of identity of these transnational families , the project of building nation-states , in the modern sense of the term, started in Iran in the 1930s and in the Arab Gulf countries since 1970, seems to have amended the challenges that the double-belonging character of the identity represents vis-à-vis the iranians-Arabs inhabitants or Iranian "Arabised" inhabitants in the Gulf cities whose origins date back to the neighboring country.
Similarly, the geopolitical relations between countries in the north and south, the economic imbalances between them has also impacted upon the strategies of actors, both in family practices such as marriage and also in the constitution of the migrant’s-or members from a family of Iranian origin-discourse and self-representation.
Through numerous interviews conducted in the UAE with Iranian family members or Emiratis with Iranian origin, we will discuss at first the characteristics of these families and we will examine the impact of the formation of national identity, in the UAE and in Iran, on the individual strategies and discourses.
In this respect, the Persian community of the sub-province of Lârestan, called "Achami" or "Achomi" (to not to confuse at first with the term "Ajami," which encompasses a broader sense) and known as "Khodmooni" in most of the Gulf states, is exemplary and deserves special interest for this essay whose focus is on ethnic, religious and national issues in the study of migration across the Gulf and its transnational context. If the so called fluidity of the transnational identity should be questioned and précised, the change we observed in our research has not however prevented a part of these communities to keep their relations between the two coasts, giving birth to new social and spatial dynamics in Iran and in the UAE through virtual and real infrastructures connecting the whole community across the Gulf.
Through the example of "Khodmoonis," we will examine the concepts of transnationalism and the so called "fluidity" of multiple belonging in the current period marked by the process, engaged by the states, of national identity construction.