Identity Construction: The Case of Young Women in Rasht

Studia Iranica Upsaliensia No. 27


By: Padideh Pakpour
November 2015
Uppsala University
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789155492984
217 Pages
$67.50 Paper original


This study took place in the city of Rasht, which is the capital of Gilan Province, situated in North-Western Iran. The aim has been to investigate how a group of young Rashti women constitute their identities through their talk-in-interaction, and how they relate to the concept of Rashti, be it the dialect, people living in a geographical area, or a notion of collective characteristics. The participants constitute their identities by using different social categories to position and categorise themselves and contrast themselves with others. In positioning and categorising they use various discursive means, such as code-switching, active voicing, and extreme-case formulations. Moreover, the social categories also overlap and work together when the participants negotiate and re-negotiate their identities, making an intersectional approach highly relevant.

The methods used in this study are of a qualitative nature and belong in the third wave of sociolinguistics (Eckert 2012). The analysed data consists primarily of staged conversations, whereas participant observation, field notes, and natural conversations have been used to help the researcher in understanding the field. The study adopts an emic or participants’ perspective through the use of membership categorisation analysis and conversation analysis, but also within a theoretical intersectionality framework.

In many of the conversations, the culture of Rasht and Gilan is a re-emerging theme, and it is contrasted with that of the rest of the country. Gender norms and gender roles are very central to the study, as these young women describe themselves as much freer and less controlled than women in other parts of the country. Gender is made relevant when the participants discuss how the local traditions surpass both national (religious) laws and social codes in other places. The Rashti and Gilaki language varieties also play a role in the constructing of the Rashti identity of the participants. There is, however, a discrepancy between the participants’ values vis-à-vis Rashti and Gilaki as a dialect or a language, and how they value being a Rashti as well as the Rashti and Gilaki culture. In the majority of conversations the participants express a highly positive opinion regarding their Rashti identity, while at the same time the Rashti and Gilaki language varieties are mostly valued in very negative ways.