By Samira Damavandi, Research Assistant for the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies
Dr. Camron Michael Amin certainly is no stranger to the field of Iranian Studies. He has been a Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, for over twenty years, and currently serves as president of the Association for Iranian Studies (AIS). While Dr. Amin’s previous notable work has been on Iranian women in the 20th century, his new research on the Iranian diaspora community in Michigan is deeply immersed in the emerging field of Iranian diaspora studies. I had the opportunity to interview him and get a sneak peak of what he’ll be presenting at the “Forty Years & More” conference at SF State in March 2019.
Amin’s introduction and interest in Iranian studies was born from his own biography as the child of an Iranian father and American mother who met at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he was born. His father’s career as a civil engineering professor led his family to move to Iran where he became a professor at Sharif University and later Chancellor of what is now known as the Isfahan Institute of Technology. During the early period of the 1979 revolution, the Amin family returned to the Midwest. As an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, Amin majored in both history and electrical engineering, but he chose to pursue the history path and later pursued graduate study in Middle Eastern Studies.
“It really was not until halfway through graduate school that I became truly interested in a career in academia, studying modern Iran,” Amin said.
Like others of Amin’s generation who lived between Iran and the US, Amin decided to study Iranian history in order to try to make sense of the present. “Looking back now, I can see that for me studying Iran was an effort to understand the revolution. I was 13 when the revolution took place, and desperate to understand what was going on. Once [in the US], it was hard not to realize that Iran and Iranians were unpopular. In Iran, during the revolution, it was hard not to realize that Americans were unpopular.”
Amin will be presenting his research project on Iranian Americans in Michigan at the upcoming conference. The Michigan Iranian-American Oral History Project (MIAOP) “aims to digitally document the stories of Iranian Americans with ties to the state and highlight their everyday lives.” One of the first individual’s interviewed for the MIAOP was Amin’s father, Dr. Mohammad Amin. In this interview, Amin relays his father’s “decision to come to America in 1954 to study civil engineering, his first night in Michigan, and where he spent a couple of months in 1955 in an ESL program, as well as his time working at an automobile factory that same summer.”
Amin told me that one thing he loves about oral history interviews is you have no idea of someone’s breath of life experience until you start talking with them. “Every interview is like traveling to another planet,” he said.
Amin’s research will also be presented at the Oral History Association in Ann Arbor and at the Midwest Archivist Conference. We are thrilled to have Dr. Amin present his work at “Forty Years & More: International Conference on Iranian Diaspora Studies” this upcoming March 28-30th, 2019 and to see the natural connection between the Association of Iranian Studies and the emerging field of Iranian diaspora studies.
For a full list of speakers and the conference schedule, go to: https://ids.sfsu.edu/conference.
To access the Michigan Iranian American Oral History Project, please visit https://library.umd.umich.edu/miaohp/index.php
Samira Damavandi is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. She received her M.Phil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford, St. Antony’s College and her BA from UC Berkeley in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. She has worked with various Iranian diaspora organizations over the last ten years. Her work and research focuses on Iran and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to delve deeper into this field. You can follow her on Twitter at @samira_says .