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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ms Mahzad Madeleine Essalat


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Ms Mahzad Madeleine Essalat
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Thesis title:
Bahais, Iranian Christians of Muslim-background, and Zoroastrians in the greater Washington metropolitan area an ethnographic exploration of religious minority communities in migration context.

PhD Research

The presented thesis is based on case studies of three religious minority communities in the Greater DC area. These are the Baha'is, the Iranian-Christians of Muslim background, and the Zoroastrians. Iranian-American religious communities are going through important transformations. The question is how are they transforming. While some Iranian Muslims are said to be ambivalent, or, less salient about their religious identity, there is an emerging community of Iranian Christians of Muslim-background, in the making. And the pre-79 existing Baha'i and Zoroastrian local communities are also going through significant transformations, partly as the result of the influx of the Iranian diaspora, since the 1980s. In taking a comparative approach the presented research examines how the fabric of the three religious communities are being re/defined, in migration context, in particular in terms of their membership boundaries, and social composition. It explores how the (re)making of these communities are being negotiated, and resisted, or contested by their community members, what the tensions and frictions are, and their impact. In tracing these transfigurations the thesis's primary focus would be on how the demographic (re)making of the communities are interconnected to conversion strategies, and options.

In sum, the research is about how these communities are (re)defining their membership boundaries, and re-organizing. And how as religious movements they have been transfiguring.