Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


The United States is home to the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran, an immigrant group that slowly emerged over the latter half of the 20th century, spurred by the 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent unrest in the mid-2000s. This case study explores the Iranian and Iranian-American-identifying population of the United States, with a geographic focus on the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota. It delves into several key questions: are Iranian ethnic businesses distinct from those previously suggested in ethnic entrepreneurship case studies? And how do perceptions of Iranian-American identity play a role in the development of these businesses? This thesis first makes the case that ethnic Iranian businesses are unusual in their development, and moreover, the multiplicity of ways in which Iranian ethnic businesses evolve reinforces and develops a potentially diasporic and transnational identity, one based upon specific cultural conceptions of family, nostalgia, and education.

Through ethnographic interviews with Iranians and Iranian-Americans in the Twin Cities and through memoirs written by Iranians and Iranian-Americans, this thesis analyzes the structure of Iranian ethnic entrepreneurship in the Twin Cities and how it differs from structures most frequently suggested in similar case studies. Moreover, it explores how perceived transnational and diasporic Iranian identities, rooted in cultural notions of nostalgia, education, and family, motivate many of the distinctive qualities of Iranian ethnic entrepreneurship. This research is framed by ethnic entrepreneurship and transnational and diasporic identity literatures, and advances both a distinct conception of ethnic entrepreneurship and a reflection on Iranian and Iranian-American identity in the Twin Cities.

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Geography Commons



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