Mapping Out Race: How Afro-Iranian Migrations Redefine the ‘Aryan Myth’

Author: Sarah Boroujerdi (State Center Community College District, U.S.)
Speaker: Sarah Boroujerdi
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
COMELA 2022 General Session


If maps refer to geographies, the transing of cultural histories, and an arrival of migrant bodies, what might it mean to map out race in Iran? This paper examines the ethnocentric biases that stem from repertoires of whiteness, particularly due to the ‘Aryan Myth’. Political terminology of The First Persian Empire (550-330 BCE) that drew from an association with geography distanced Iranians from Afro-Iranian populations residing north of the Persian Gulf. The kindred ties between Iranian identity and homeland through the ‘Persian’ label under the Achaemenid rulership formulated a romanticized narration of race in Iran. In effect, the bridge between linguistics and geography due to aristocratic terminology uniformly synthesized racial affiliations between Iranians and whiteness. Limited scholarship has been shown of the Afro-Iranian community’s presence in southern Iran after enslavement, yet archives from within Iran and England that connect to slavery have become highly critical to the study of Afro-Iranian migrations (Mirzai, 2002). This paper analyzes a reclaiming of multi-ethnic identity and a renovated epistemological lens when viewing migrations, diaspora, and race relations after the growth of Afro-Iranian heritage in southern Iran.

Keywords: Race, Migrations, Afro-Iranian, Iranian, Identity, Aryan, Indo-European.