Monthly Archives: February 2008

Being Diasporic & Elderly

Last Thursday (21/02/08), I spent time with the folks who run Persian Adult Day Care at the MRCF. As I mentioned in an early post, I will be examining this group a bit more and sharing with you interesting situations that I come across.

I had a chance to speak with the founder of Persian Adult Day Care, Ms. Roohy Shahin, a hypnotherapist by training. She indicated that the main reason for establishing this group was to allow elderly Iranians to all come together and have a place to meet and socialize with one another. As with all diasporas- often times, elderly relations also migrate so that they can be closer to their children. This is very true among those in the Iranian diaspora. Depending on the age which they have arrived from Iran, some of the more adventurous will learn English and try to communicate with non-Iranians in addition to their grandchildren (2nd & 3rd generation). However, often times, the elderly population who have migrated don’t learn English. They begin to feel very marginalize, lonely, and it doesn’t take long for depression to result from having no one to talk to and being completely reliant on their children and grandchildren for help. Of course, this sort of family set up isn’t healthy in the long term, and often creates many family dysfunctions, including estrangement between family members.

Shahin has utilized her qualifications to address the issues of depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and developing good family relations among other topics. After lunch times, Shahin will usually bring up a issue or situation and explain what is (mentally) healthy and sound versus a unhealthy way of tackling problem or issue. Shahin mentioned during our chat that she often repeats concepts over and over again in order from them to think about it thoughtfully. Although some of the people who attended appeared to not be listening, there were others who seemed engaged in what Shahin was explaining to them. I spoke to one older gentleman in Farsi and he said that, “What Khanoom [Lady] Shahin says is true. In Iran, young people get married and don’t understand what marriage is and people wonder why these marriages don’t work and why everyone is getting divorces. They need to see someone like Shahin in order to understand what they are engaging in. It is the same with raising children and general family life. There needs to be someone who can provide guidance.”

I was surprised by what he said given that many Iranians loath psychologists and see it and anything to do with mental health as being a “quack” science. In Iran, traditionally, if you are depressed you talk about your sadness to family and other relatives. You may even make a pilgrimage to a religious shrine and ask God for guidance. It is rare that someone seek out medical attention for this matter- unless you are educated or upper class.  Changes are being made within Iran to promote mental health issues and to educate the population about mental health. However, by and large, whether in Iran or within the Iranian diaspora, talking about mental health and/or being mentally ill is still considered taboo.

Anyway, I’m going to present a question to the readers: are there any articles and essays that explore mental health within a diaspora, specifically regarding intergeneration issues?



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Nakba 60 Oral History Day

in association with SOAS Palestine Society and LSE SU Palestine Society



Saturday 1 MARCH 2008

(free admission)

Please book in advance at:

The Eye of the Spoken Word: Oral History and The 1948 Nakba

The Oral History Day event brings together scholars, filmmakers and oral history specialists to reflect on the narratives of the 1948 Nakba. Presenting the people’s voices, the speakers will further discuss the importance of oral history as an instrument for preserving the Palestinian collective memory and relaying the events that surrounded the 1948 Nakba and beyond. We will hear and see stories of both the survivors and the perpetrators throughout the day.

Registration: 11:00

Room G2

SOAS – School of Oriental and African Studies – Thornhaugh Street , Russell Square , London WC1H 0XG

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The Writings on the Wall

My good friend Abdul Kargbo, has put up an interesting post on all the photos he has taken on his camera phone in and around the Washington D.C. area of anti-establishment and anti-war graffiti. Those with a keen interest/research in visual culture and anti-war activism will certainly enjoy his commentary.

I hope that the American public finally wakes up to the reality of what 8 years of Bush has done to ruin the US, and elects someone who has the foresight to fix and truly heal the nation!


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Filed under activism, anti-establishment, anti-war, Humor, multimedia, photography, U.S.A.

Moroccan Memories and Other Interesting Tidbits

For the past two weeks, I have been working on a MRCF project called Moroccan Memories in Britain, An Oran and Visual History

Moroccan Memories was set up by Dr. Myriam Cherti as a way to bridge the historical gap between past and post 1960 Moroccan migration to the UK. As a fieldworker, my job will be to capture three generations worth or oral and visual histories, targeting the areas of Trowbridge, Crawley, and St. Albans.  What is brilliant about this project is how it incorporates intergenerational ties among those in the Moroccan community. As is mentioned in the Moroccan Memories pamphlet, by examining the “intergenerational ties amongst members of the Moroccan community [can create] platforms for discussion and dialogue between the three generations, is an additional desired project output.” The oral testimonies gathered will be kept in archive at the British Library Sound Archives, HISTORYtalk in North Kensington, Mass-Observational Archive at the University of Sussex, and the Living Memory Association in Edinburgh. This will ensure that future generations of British-Moroccans and the wider public will have access to the rich history within this diaspora

I am really excited by what this project is promoting and looking forward to my first interview experience. I have to complete eight interviews before April, so if you are British Moroccan and live in the three listed areas, please feel free to get in touch with me or Dr. Cherti (see contact info below) if you would like to share your story.

Dr. Myriam Cherti

Project Co-ordinator

Tel: 020 8962 3045


Through the  MRCF, I have also come across another interesting group called Persian Adult-Day Care. It was set up by Roohy Shahin as a way for her mother to socialize with other older adults within the Persian community in London. Roohy does address an important but often neglected theme in diaspora studies– how to care for the needs of elder relatives, many of which may have not entirely assimilated or only have come recently to the host country to settle with their children.  Persian Adult-Day Care meets every Thursday from 11am-4pm, and provides elder Iranians (between the ages of 65-80?) a chance to meet others in their peer group. The psychological impact is priceless because it allows elder Iranians not to feel so marginalized, alone and neglected. It gives them an outlet to feel part of a community, a home.

I’m going to comment more about these two projects in the coming months. I’ve already been asked by Roohy’s mom to be a regular volunteer for Persian Adult-Day Care.


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Filed under community, Moroccan Diaspora, oral histories, research

Weapons of Massive Laughter

I am a connoisseur of humor and satire. In fact, on those days that I feel blue and find life a bit overwhelming, I retreat into my room and watch a few YouTube clips of stand-up by Dave Chapelle (famous for his Comedy Central show, Chapelle Show), Margaret Cho, and Russell Peters among others. Sometimes, I’ll look up old Saturday Night Live skits from Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman. Friend have witnessed me on my own hilarious musings and I know that if a person is down in the dumps, nothing gets one out of their doldrums better than deep, belly-filled laughs!

I’ve decided to combine my love of humor into my own examination of the Iranian Diaspora, specifically how 1.5 and second generation Iranian diasporics utilize photoshopping to create digitally altered and humorous images poking fun of Iranian and US/UK politics, and Iranian culture in Iran and in the diaspora among other themes. I first presented a rough version of this at the Third Annual BRISMES Graduate Conference at Wolfson College, Oxford, and will expand the theme to explore how diasporic Iranians are also utilizing Youtube to make their own home-grown humor exploring such things as dating, inter-generational issues (i.e.: 1.5 and second generation Iranians versus how their parents act in daily life), and double standards in how parents treat young women and men in the diaspora. I’ll be presenting my findings at the Moving Borders: The Aesthetics of Migration, part of the Mellon Lecture Series at UCL. My colleague, Dr. Federica Mazzara has been marvelous in organizing the entire event and I am excited by all the interesting papers that will be presented, especially one by my friend Alpesh!

Perhaps another motivation for my recent interest into humor and parody in the diasporic Iranian landscape has a lot to do with how Middle Easterners are portrayed and essentialized as being either overly sensual/sexual or barbarically violent. In between these two massive stereotypes is the picture that Middle Easteners are also devoid of any humor or parody. Well, take away the stereotypical images usually presented and there is a very rich history of humor, especially in the Iranian context. I grew up on the parody short stories of Mulla Nasruddine. For the diasporic Iranian community, there is a plethora of talented stand-up comedians, such as Omid Djalili, Shappi Khorsandi, and Maz Jobrani to name a few. These comedians are answering back to many years of bigoted assumptions through the use of wit and humor. Who says that Iranians can’t appreciate a good laugh?

To drop you all a good WML (Weapons of Massive Laughter), I have included a few links to my favorite stand-up by Djalili, Jobrani, and Khorsandi.



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Filed under conference, event, Humor, Iranian diaspora, multimedia, research, Uncategorized