Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Janet Jacobs

Second Advisor

Jennifer Bair

Third Advisor

Joanne Belknap

Fourth Advisor

Isaac Reed

Fifth Advisor

Paul Shankman


This dissertation research is the primary sociological study of Iranian Baha’í refugees in the United States and lies at the intersection of trauma, immigration, religion, and gender. Using data from fifty in-depth qualitative interviews with first generation Iranian Baha’ís in the United States, I investigate how members of this religious minority community experience, respond to, and cope with the trauma of persecution, the experience of exile and the challenge of religious preservation in the aftermath of mass trauma. More specifically, using feminist methodologies, I analyze the Iranian Baha’ís’ experiences of persecution in Iran and their responses to it. Members of this group use passing, open displays of religiosity, or a combination of passing and open displays to negotiate their difficult social position in Iran. I examine how the Baha’ís escaped Iran and the sense of exile they experience when trying to find a place in the United States. Further, I demonstrate that the Iranian Baha’ís experience challenges in the immigration process, as a consequence of cultural differences between them and members of the host culture, racial and religious tensions, loss of status, and generational tensions. Lastly, I explore the role of national and religious identity, as well as religious observance, in the process of individual and collective identity development.