The proliferation of popular memoirs by Iranian American women that began in 2003 engendered a vigorous debate in the scholarly community, particularly among Iranian American scholars. Much of the debate has centered on the perception that the memoirists are offering a personal story that is frequently misinterpreted by its popular readership as a national story, thereby distorting the more accurate picture that can be offered by scholarly research and writing. Critics argue that this is particularly dangerous at this critical juncture in the history of American–Middle East relations, when the American reader is particularly hungry for information about Iran and the Middle East. Ironically, though most of the critics of the memoirs have established scholarly records, they have responded to the memoirs in forms that emphasize their own autobiographical experience. Why this insistence on the autobiographical by scholars to legitimate information about Iran? Heretofore an immigrant group largely absent from public discourse as such, I argue that the debate over the memoir has made the Iranian diaspora community produce (and reproduce) itself by publicly staging textual debates over autobiography, scholarship, and the limits of authenticity and authority.
Research Article| August 01 2011
Amy Motlagh; Autobiography and Authority in the Writings of the Iranian Diaspora. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2011; 31 (2): 411–424. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-1264325
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