Mechanisms of Identity Construction among Members of Pyramid Schemes in Iran: A Critical Ethnography

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/1733-8077.17.4.06

Keywords:

Pyramid Scheme Firms, Social Construction of Superhuman, Critical Ethnography

Abstract

Whereas the emergence of pyramid schemes exerted considerable impacts on people’s lives, up to now, far too little attention has been paid to the experiences of members from the sociological perspective, particularly in non-Western contexts. Therefore, this study illuminates social processes underlying participation in such schemes in a less studied social setting, Iran. This article also critically traces the social and psychological consequences of membership in pyramid schemes. We adapted a critical ethnographic approach, including participant observation of local branch offices, followed by 16 in-depth interviews with the former members of schemes. Our findings suggest that the practices deployed by the schemes lead to the building of social identity, namely, “superhuman,” mainly based on the misinterpretation of the real world. Finding the reality surrounded deliberately contrasted with the firms’ promises, the constructed identity fails, and members lose their social capital.

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Author Biographies

Saeed Keshavarzi, Independent Researcher, Iran

Saeed Keshavarzi holds a Ph.D. in political sociology from Shiraz University. He was also a Scholar at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, Italy. His research focuses on different fields of study, including social movements, mobilization, collective action, political and social psychology, migration, and youth studies.

Ali Ruhani, Yazd University, Iran

 Ali Ruhani (corresponding author) is an Associate Professor of sociology at Yazd University. His primary research interests are qualitative methodology, critical studies, and migration. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in social psychology, sociology of women, introduction to sociology, and social movements.

 

Soheyla Hajiheidari, Yazd University, Iran

Soheyla Hajiheidari holds an MA of social research from Yazd University. Her research interests lie in critical ethnography, pyramid schemes, and social psychology.

 

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Published

2021-10-31

How to Cite

Keshavarzi, S., Ruhani, A., & Hajiheidari, S. (2021). Mechanisms of Identity Construction among Members of Pyramid Schemes in Iran: A Critical Ethnography. Qualitative Sociology Review, 17(4), 104-117. https://doi.org/10.18778/1733-8077.17.4.06

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