10.Bahai Literature review 4 distribution (1)

10.Bahai Literature review 4 distribution (1) - Literature...

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Literature Review: The Development of the Baha’i Community in the United States and its Race Relations 1
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Various religious congregations imported by those who preserve their cultural heritage are thriving on its soil since the United States keeps attracting immigrants and refugees from all over the world. In spite of its modern Middle Eastern origin, the Baha’i Faith in the United States has more American followers than Iranian (Yanagawa and Saeki 1991) unlike most immigrant congregations. This is partly because of its history. The Baha’i Faith was brought to the United States not by immigrants or refugees, but by early followers in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, who attempted to evangelize non-Baha’is (Stockman 1985, Hartz 2002). The early Baha’i community, the majority of which were of Western European origins with Christian backgrounds experienced a drastic demographic change as Iranians rushed to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s (Cole 2000). According to some scholars, this demographic change has caused tensions in American Baha’i communities, as previous studies have shown the general tendency for racial homophily (Mollica et al. 2003)and different value priorities among Baha’is depending on their cultural backgrounds (Feather 1992). Also, the dissolution of the Local Spiritual Assembly, a nine-person elected administrative body in each local Baha’i community, in Los Angeles was due to serious problems including troubled race relations (Cole 2000). My ethnography is going to focus on this issue of race relations in the Baha’i community in Austin. It is still unclear whether issues regarding race relations exist in the Austin Baha’i community, but I have found more reasons to assume so than not. To present those reasons, I will contextualize the American Baha’i community through the basic tenet of the Baha’i Faith and its historical development. The Baha’i Faith has its origin in Iran, but it is no longer an “Iranian” religion today. Partly due to the severe persecution in Iran and other Islamic countries, the faith has spread to other regions of the world. The biggest community exists in India, with more than two million Baha’is, and two hundred and thirty six countries/areas have Baha’i communities today (Hartz, 2002). The rapid growth is partly due to immigrations of Baha’is to areas where the faith has not taken root, but also due to its teachings. The Baha’i Faith is a modern religion. Its founder, Baha’u’llah, lived in the late nineteenth century, when humans had already experienced a great deal of transformation in their society. The son of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, has even written a book called “Secret of Divine Civilization,” in which he discusses how to modernize Iran. Scholars point out the influence from the Enlightenment in his works (Hartz 2002). Since it was founded in the modern time, many 2
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2011 for the course UGS 302 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas.

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10.Bahai Literature review 4 distribution (1) - Literature...

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