Persian Studies Digital Stories

Persian Studies Launches Digital Storytelling Project

Media contact: Persis Karim, Co-Director, Persian Studies, 408-924-4476

SAN JOSE, Calif.—San Jose State’s Persian Studies Program has completed a digital storytelling project entitled “Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community.”

Persis Karim, professor of English and Comparative Literature and co-director of Persian Studies, conceived and directed the effort, which was funded by Cal Humanities and its Community Stories initiative.

“We are grateful to Cal Humanities for supporting this project and making it possible for these dynamic, first-person narratives to show another side of Iran and Iranian Americans, a diverse group of Americans who have been shaped by and are still shaping Silicon Valley,” Karim said.

Regional impact

“Iranian American Voices” features 10, in-depth human stories produced in collaboration with Clint Gilbert at the Center for Digital Storytelling. Those interviewed include an artist, writer, entrepreneur, human rights activist, lawyer, musician, educator and SJSU student.

The goal is to allow Iranian Americans to represent themselves as well as their struggles and triumphs as members of a new community of Californians,” Karim said. “These stories offer a complex and rich portrayal of Iranian immigration and the experiences and contributions that Iranian Americans have made to Silicon Valley.”

Participants share reflections about a variety of experiences ranging from the 1979 Iranian Revolution to the Iran-Iraq War to the realities of growing up as second-generation children of Iranian immigrants in the context of U.S.-Iran hostility. Karim plans to share this pilot to gain support for a similar effort for all of Northern California.

Strategic significance

The project is just one of many Persian Studies Program initiatives. The digital stories were featured at the first-ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora” conference, held this past April at SJSU with generous support from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.

In addition, a generous three-year grant from Roshan enables SJSU to offer a Persian Studies Program featuring lectures, courses, and cultural events about Iran, the Iranian diaspora, and Persian culture in the South Bay.

With more than 120 million international speakers, Persian is a strategically significant language that can benefit careers in the foreign service, international relations, and literary translations. Since 2011, SJSU has offered courses in beginning Persian through the Department of World Languages and Literature.

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San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.