Special Edition, September 2009,
Language, Culture and Identity in Asia.
Identities in the Headlines of Iranian National Newspapers
Reza Ghafar Samar
Tarbiat Modares University
Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr branch
Reza Ghafar Samar is an assistant professor of (Socio)linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Ottawa, Canada in Applied-Sociolinguistics, an MA in TEFL from Tarbiat Modares University and a BA in English Language and Literature from Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran. He specializes in Sociolinguistics (Variation Theory, Bilingualism, and Language change) and its application in Second/Foreign Language Acquisition. He is the author of numerous articles appearing as book chapters or in journals such as International Journal of Bilingualism.
Babak Mahdavy is a lecturer at Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr branch and is currently a PhD student in TEFL at Tarbiat Modares University. He has published and presented papers in national and international journals and conferences. His research interests include language testing and assessment, language socialization, identity issues and vocabulary acquisition.
It is believed that Iranian collective identity is comprised of Persian identity, Islam, and Modernity (e.g. Roholamini, 1999; Rajaie, 2005). Persian identity was formed during the Pre-Islamic era of Iranian history (1500 BC-632 AD) and with the Arab invasion and emergence of Shi’ism, Islamic identity developed. During the Qajar dynasty and industrial developments in the West, Iran was involved in the process of modernization. In the headlines of national newspapers, Iranian identities are reflected everyday but it is not empirically known to what extent each identity is represented in different newspapers and what the attitudes are of newspapers towards these different identities. The present study aims to deal with the problem by conducting a content analysis of the headlines of the newspapers, Kayhan, Ettelaat, Iran, and Shargh. The results indicate that Kayhan favors revolutionary Islam and is negative about western identity while Ettelaat is more concerned with traditional Islam and describes western identity more conservatively. Ettelaat, similar to Iran, favors national identity and finally Shargh contains the lowest number of headlines describing Islamic identity. Therefore, the four newspapers do not represent identities similarly and have different attitudes towards them. The study will draw on identity theory, such as the one proposed by Castells (2004), to show that the present situation is a consequence of neglecting the role of Islamic identity in the contemporary history of Iran.
Keywords: Persian, Islamic, National, Modern, Western, Identity, Newspapers