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Ironic Acceptance – Present in Academia Discarded as Oriental: The Case of Iranian Female Graduate Student in Canadian Academia

Abstract: The purpose of this research is to examine the experiences of first-generation, highly educated Iranian women who came to Canada to pursue further education in a ‘just’, ‘safe’, and ‘peaceful’ place. The research has revealed that these women who were fleeing from an ‘oppressive’ and ‘unjust’ Iranian regime face new challenges and different forms of oppression in Canada. This dissertation examines some of the challenges that these women face at their place of work and/or at graduate school. The research findings are based on narratives of eleven Iranian women who participated in in-depth interviews in the summer of 2008. These women, whose ages range from 26 to 55 and are of diverse marital status, all hold an academic degree from Iran. They were also all enrolled in different graduate schools and diverse disciplines in Ontario universities at the time of the interviews. The research findings indicate that their presence in Canada became more controversial after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade centers in New York. Historically, the social images imposed on Middle Eastern women derive from the Orientalism that arose following the colonization of the Middle East by Western imperialists. The perpetuation of such images after the 9/11 attack has created a harsh environment for the participants in this research. After 9/11 most immigrants from the Middle East were assumed to be Muslim and Arab, which many North Americans came to equate with being a terrorist. In order to analyze the participants’ voices and experiences, I have adopted a multi-critical theoretical perspective that includes Orientalism, anti-colonialism and integrative anti-racist feminist perspectives, so as to be equipped with the tools necessary to investigate and expose the roots of racism, oppression and discrimination of these marginalized voices. The findings of this research fall under six interrelated themes: adaptation, stereotyping, discrimination, being silenced, strategy of resistance, and belonging to Canadian society/ graduate school. One of the important results of this research is that, regardless of the suffering and pain that the participants feel in Canadian graduate school and society, they prefer to stay in Canada because of the socio-political climate in Iran.

Author: Zahra Hojati

Source: University of Toronto - TSpace

Size: 870.24 KB
Last Updated: July 31, 2015