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Mapping Our Belonging: 1.5-Generation Iranians’ Experiences of Belonging in Toronto and Istanbul
For 1.5-generation immigrants (those who migrate prior to adulthood), forging a sense of belonging is a non-linear and complex process. Oscillating between “here” and “there,” commonly attributed to their relationship to the home and host countries, can lead to an absence of essential needs like belonging and connection. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has experienced large waves of migration, with members of its diaspora settling in almost every continent. The geopolitical complexities of the Iranian diaspora, along with the Iranian regime’s policies and turbulent relationships with other nations, challenge the processes of establishing connection, and forging belonging among its members. These challenges may be particularly pronounced for 1.5-generation immigrants who maintain (limited) ties to both their home and host countries. This paper responds to two questions: first, what are the experiences of belonging of 1.5-generation Iranians currently living in Toronto, and Istanbul? And second, how do these 1.5-generation Iranians define a sense of belonging, and home? To explore these questions, I use life mapping, an innovative arts-based method, along with semi-structured interviews with 12 participants in Toronto and approximately 10 participants in Istanbul. Life maps give participants the opportunity to share and process important life events in an order they choose. Simultaneously, semi-structured interviews give them the space to co-construct knowledge, demonstrating how they define and experience home and belonging. Toronto and Istanbul are the sites of this research as they present different sociopolitical contexts, policies, and proximity to Iran. My findings emphasise the importance of contextual factors, including political era, international events, and family makeup, in shaping how belonging is understood and experienced. Furthermore, Participants’ stories illustrate diverse paths to belonging and challenge the limits of conventional notions of belonging. Finally, the findings demonstrate that following the experiences of oscillation, some 1.5-generations embrace and forge their own definition and sense of belonging beyond the “here” or “there”, some exist in an “elsewhere”, while others still, continue to oscillate in between. The research sheds light on ongoing experiences of migrations from Iran, along with how global political events, including the recent Women, Life, Freedom revolution in Iran, may affect migrants’ transnational connections and sense of belonging. The findings of this study offer valuable insights for both scholarship and practical application, informing policymakers and community organizations about the nuanced dynamics of belonging among 1.5-generation Iranians and guiding the development of more effective programs and support services for immigrant youth.
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