Since the early 1930s, many in southern Iran crossed the Gulf and resettled on the other side of the water, to the eastern Arabian Peninsula, migrating on political and economic grounds. In later years, some gained citizenship in today’s Gulf Arab states, contributing to the nation-building process of these countries, utilising the skills and knowledge of their professions. In the case of the United Arab Emirates (the UAE), many naturalised Iranian migrants integrated into society while maintaining family connections and the cultural traditions of their Iranian origins. However, since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, their sense of belonging to Iran has been perceived as a threat to the UAE’s national identity. As a result, the practice of these traditions has been restrained in both public and private spheres. While the Arabisation of naturalised Iranian migrants has significantly intensified, in recent years, the younger generation has begun to revive the cultural traditions lost by their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Through an exploration of ethnographic data collected in the UAE since 2019, this paper sheds light on the tendency to revive and celebrate Iranian cultural traditions and identity amongst young Iranian naturalised migrants of the UAE. This paper simultaneously seeks suggestions on theories and perspectives, laying the foundations for further investigation into this ongoing phenomenon.
Manami GOTO, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of International Resource Sciences, Akita University and an Excellent Young Researcher of the Leading Initiative for Excellent Young Researchers (LEADER) Project. She is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. Her main areas of interest are dress, material culture, oral history, and the rituals of women in the Persian Gulf. Manami holds a PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter, and her thesis focused on the female face mask and its relation to socio-cultural identities in the coastal cities of southern Iran and the eastern Arabian Peninsula. She is currently researching the dress politics of the Gulf Arab states, analysing how migrant Iranian women have utilised different types of dress to express their sense of belonging, integrate into society, and reject certain social norms imposed on them.