On the Side-lines: How New Asian Indian Immigrants Come to Terms with Racialization




Koshy, Kavitha

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Given the pervasiveness of racialization in U.S. life, this research is aimed at uncovering the racialized structural-level processes and interpersonal encounters that make new nonwhite immigrant groups such as Asian Indians more aware of how race operates in U.S. life. Although the racialized experiences of nonwhite immigrants in the United States have been written about extensively, most research on Asian Indian immigrant experiences in the U.S. tends to focus on ethnic adaptation, with only a cursory look at racialization processes. While a growing literature in the last fifteen years has attested to South Asian "racial ambiguity" and resistance to being "raced," there is little in-depth qualitative evidence of how South Asians or Asian Indians in particular racially identify or avoid racialization. Additionally, with a focus on the racialization experiences of post-1985 Asian Indian immigrants, this study throws light on immigrant worker racialization under conditions of accelerated globalization, characteristic of the last two decades. Twenty-three in-depth interviews were conducted with both men and women of Asian Indian origin who entered the United States after 1985, and are currently residing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The data collected uncovers a) the ebbs and flows of the paradoxical experience of "racialized otherness" and "racialized inclusion;" b) a crisis of understanding when the interpretation of racialized experiences and emerging racial (or non-racial) identities do not align with the actual experience of U.S. style racialization and deliberate racialized actions (choices, decisions, racial positioning, etc.); c) two ideal types ("disidentifier" and "relational") emerge, that depict two ends of a spectrum that represents how the participants approached their racial ambiguity in the U.S.; and d) racialization is exacerbated by contextual factors such as geographical location (the U.S. South or Texas), location in the global occupational structure, "post-race" and "flat world" perspectives, and U.S. racial politics, immigration policies, and growing nativism. The study findings as a whole allow us to frame theoretical propositions that undergird nonwhite immigrant racialization in the United States.



Immigrants, Racialization, Asian Indian