Assessing racial inequities in the education of bilingual and multilingual Iranian-American students

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Spencer Foundation supports studying how educational experiences shape racialization, linguistic and cultural outcomes for bilingual and multilingual Iranian families.

Official grant name

Legacies of Racialization and Sociopolitical Tensions: Sociolinguistic Consequences for Iranian Immigrant/Refugee Families with Children in K–12 Schools and Heritage Language Programs

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Principal investigator

Yalda (Marzieh) Kaveh

Direct sponsor

Spencer Foundation

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The challenge

Decades of political tensions between Iran and the U.S. have profoundly affected Iranian Americans, shaping their identities and experiences. Despite being categorized as white on U.S. legal forms, Iranians are often racialized as non-white in society, leading to stigmatization and discrimination. Iranian American youth face bullying and racist attacks, particularly in schools, which complicates their identity formation and sense of belonging. Language plays a critical role in this context, as children navigate the dual pressures of cultural pride and societal shame associated with their Iranian heritage and Persian language. The broader sociopolitical environment, including immigration history, legal status, socioeconomic factors and educational systems, further influences these dynamics.


The approach

Legacies of Racialization and Sociopolitical Tensions: Sociolinguistic Consequences for Iranian Immigrant/Refugee Families with Children in K12 Schools and Heritage Language Program employs a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach to explore the sociolinguistic consequences of racialization and sociopolitical tensions for Iranian immigrant and refugee families in the U.S. 

The project, which is funded through the Spencer Foundation, is led by principal investigator, Yalda (Marzieh) Kaveh, a MLFTC assistant professor. The project aims to:

1. Examine the impact of racialization and sociopolitical tensions: By investigating the effects of these factors on Iranian immigrants and their children, the study seeks to understand how racialization, religion, socioeconomic status, and legal status influence their experiences in the U.S.

 2. Analyze educational outcomes: The research will focus on how U.S. education, including mainstream K12 schooling and heritage language programs, inform racialization, language beliefs and cultural identities of bilingual and multilingual Iranian families. This includes assessing the role of schools in either perpetuating or mitigating the challenges faced by these families.

3. Investigate identity construction: The study will explore how children in Iranian immigrant families negotiate their cultural and linguistic identities amidst conflicting messages from their families and society. This involves examining the role of language in identity construction and the impact of societal stigmatization on their self-perception.

The project will use a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative methods to provide a comprehensive understanding of the issues. Quantitative data will offer broad insights into patterns and trends, while qualitative data will provide in-depth perspectives on individual experiences and contextual nuances. The findings aim to inform educational practices and policies to better support Iranian immigrant and refugee families in schools and communities.