Self, Face, and Identity in the Iranian Culture: A Study on Three Lexemes

Document Type : Research Article


Department of English, Faculty of Literature and Languages, Arak University



The paper investigates the relationship between self, identity, and face in the Iranian culture by examining three lexemes shaxsiat (‘personality’, ‘character’), āberu (lit. water-of-face), and ru (lit. ‘front part of head’). Drawing on Goffman’s theory of face (1967) and the Self-Aspect Model of Identity (Simon, 2004), instances of the use of the lexemes in online sources and in daily conversations are ethnographically analyzed in their contexts of use to explore which aspect(s) of self are foregrounded in each case and what they reveal about a person’s identity and face. The findings suggest that shaxsiat comprises the individual self or identity of a person by foregrounding both the positively and negatively valenced self-aspects, and while āberu and ru are both relational aspects of shaxsiat; the former foregrounds primarily positively evaluated self-aspects that comprise collective identity, or face in its Goffmanian sense, and the latter highlights self-aspects that under traditional Iranian ways of thinking have to be concealed, suppressed, denied. The findings also suggest that facework is embedded in identity work and they co-construct each other.