This paper is an integral part of a longitudinal study of one group of Asian Americans, Indians, who initially arrived in the United States in pursuit of a dream for the specific purpose of fulfilling academic and/or professional goals, and who eventually elasticized their stay as they became permanent residents or naturalized citizens. The paper notes that while there are numerous poignant literary portrayals of the Indian immigrant’s trauma of adjustment, his/her relatively smooth transition into the middle-class mosaic, or their fierce retention of ethnic distinctiveness, there are limited historical and sociological analyses of the Indian immigrant experience (particularly taking into account issues of sub-ethnicity), fewer still of the professional Indian women’s immigrant experience, and none about the structural-cultural dichotomy of the potential immigrant who has not quite burnt his (or her) bridges. The paper first provides a historical overview of both the historical and demographic changes in the pattern, nature, type, and extent of Indian immigration between WWI and the present; it then concentrates on multiple case studies of the post-1965 generation of Indian immigrants, particularly those who came here from Bengal (Northeastern India) for the next four decades, until the end of the 1990’s, who had no definitive plan of adopting the United States as their country of residence, but who eventually did. The paper concludes that during the transition from the pre-immigrant to the immigrant stage, in each of the five decades, the long-term resident’s/ naturalized citizen’s “American Dream” has undergone a re-definition that is distinctly reflective of and parallel to the political and economic changes in the host society. However, while there is an overarching trend towards structural assimilation, there is an equally pronounced and consistent cultural alienation from the host society in the post-1965 group. What is also consistent is the continuing triple marginalization of the single, professional, Indian (in this case, Bengali) woman. The paper then raises the question whether the term Bengali/Indian/Asian American is a reactive/strategic response to battle homogenization, or does one know in some abstract, ontological, trans-historical fashion what being Bengali/Indian/Asian American is all about? The paper poses a further question: in an age of eroding borders and distances, in an era when the return of the prodigal to India is increasing at an exponential rate, when the American Dream is concretized (literally, and figuratively, for instance, in the gadget-abounding multi-storied American-like apartment complexes) in a new milieu (an economically vibrant urban India), has the Dream turned full circle? An attempt to answer that question is the sequel to this study, where, in a separate paper, the structural assimilation and cultural distinctiveness of the post-1965 group is contrasted with the departure from such traditional collectivist behavior witnessed in the post-millennium generation of diasporic Indians—itself a product of globalization.
|Keywords:||Immigration, Diasporic Indian Voices, Ethnogenesis, Race, Gender, and Age and Patterns of Socialization, Marginalization of Indian Women Academics and Professionals, Ethnicity, Sub-ethnicity, National Culture and Globalization.|
The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review, Volume 7, pp.47-61. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 694.525KB).
Professor of History, Department of Social Sciences, San Diego Mesa College, San Diego, California, USA