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Where Are You From?

Where Are You From?: Middle-Class Migrants in the Modern World

Dhooleka S. Raj
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Where Are You From?
    Book Description:

    Dhooleka S. Raj explores the complexities of ethnic minority cultural change in this incisive examination of first- and second-generation middle-class South Asian families living in London. Challenging prevalent understandings of ethnicity that equate community, culture, and identity, Raj considers how transnational ethnic minorities are circumscribed by nostalgia for culture.Where Are You From?argues that the nostalgia for culture obscures the complexities of change in migrant minority lives and limits the ways the politics of diversity can be imagined by the nation. Based on ethnographic research with Indian migrants and their children, this book examines how categories of identity, culture, community, and nation are negotiated and often equated.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92867-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Questions of Ethnicity
    (pp. 1-25)

    In 1985, at the height of Margaret Thatcher’s reign in the United Kingdom, Norman Tebbitt, a conservative member of Parliament, publicly queried South Asian loyalty to the British nation, because these minorities did not cheer for the English teams in international cricket games against India and Pakistan.¹ The infamous “cricket test” of allegiance for South Asians continues to have social and political significance. In May 2001, the headlines again questioned why Asians were not supporting England in cricket. There was, however, a twist. Two major British newspapers,The GuardianandThe Observer, quoted England’s cricket-team captain, Nasser Hussain, who had...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Being Vilayati, Becoming Asian: Keeping up with the Kapurs, the Chawlas, the Kalias, and the Aggarwals in London
    (pp. 26-52)

    Ethnic identity terms are sometimes crude, other times nuanced. In Britain, the people I studied were known as “Asians,” an ethnic referent for all those having origins in the Subcontinent. The term arose from a distinctly postcolonial British sensibility about the postwar migrants who landed on its shores from South Asia. In comparison take the Punjabi term “Vilayat,” which refers to a place that has come to mean “outside” India. A person who went to Vilayat became a Vilayati, someone from the outside. As Karnal Bhandhari makes clear, “Vilayat” at one time meant England, and those Indian migrants who had...

  7. CHAPTER 3 “I Am From Nowhere”: Partition and Being Punjabi
    (pp. 53-75)

    Ethnic minorities share a memory of movement and a sense of collective history of displacement that helps to create their transnational identities.¹ For the Hindu Punjabis of my research, the trajectory of this historical memory can be traced to the 1947 Partition of British India. Partition was the prior event that had already disrupted the sense of ethnicity cum community cum identity based on place. Marking theendof the colonial period in the Subcontinent, the division of British India into India and Pakistan created specific senses of national histories and identifications based on place and religion. Muslims belonged in...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Becoming a Hindu Community
    (pp. 76-104)

    This eloquent quotation from Uncle Ram, who migrated in 1968 and currently owns a small business, ruminates on the changing nature of belonging to a Hindu community. By comparing himself with his friend from the West Indies, he reveals his views of the different ways to be Hindu in the diaspora. His words acknowledge the fundamental importance of space and time in the construction of a diasporic Hindu community. He attributes some of the differences between himself and his friend from Trinidad to the time of migration and the location. Like others of the parental generation, he associates being a...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Search for a Suitable Boy
    (pp. 105-136)

    Thus far we have examined how culture, ethnicity, and community are disrupted when looking at the terms “Punjabi” and “Hindu” through the lens of power and representation. In the following discussion on Hindu Punjabi marriage, the ethnography illustrates the subtle ways ethnic identity is produced and challenged though practice, specifically youth practice. Intergenerational narratives are the strongest challenge to the nostalgia for culture, because they create a disruption between community, identity, and culture. I want to think through marriage as a way for talking about being transnational. The focus is on “arranged” marriage and the complexities involved in matching parental...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Becoming British Asian: Intergenerational Negotiations of Racism
    (pp. 137-164)

    Negotiations and markers of difference help to separate culture from “ethnicity” (Punjabi) and “community” (Hindu). Thus far, I have drawn on familiar terms for understanding “ethnic minorities,” such as language, religion, kinship, and alliance. Continuing my focus on the negotiation of culture cum ethnicity cum identity cum community, I want to now discuss racism as experienced in everyday lives. Race is a seemingly primordial factor of identity, culture, community, and ethnicity. Having looked at the complexities invoked in producing identification as Punjabi and Hindu, I compare middle-class Hindu Punjabi parents and children’s perspectives of two additional categories of identity: “Asian”...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Being British, Becoming a Person of Indian Origin
    (pp. 165-183)

    Hindu Punjabis experience and think about who they are in relation to varied concepts of themselves (historically through Partition memories and through migration), in relation to each other (through religion, marriage, and intergenerational changes), as well as in relation to contemporary Britain (experiences with racism). By highlighting the processual negotiations of each potential identification I have indicated how ethnic minorities not only are the products of globalization but also create the cultural changes inherent to those very global processes of the “ethnoscape” (Appadurai 1991). During the course of their lives, the migrants and their children have moved from being marked...

  12. CHAPTER 8 “Where Are You Originally From?” Multiculturalism, Citizenship, and Transnational Differences
    (pp. 184-210)

    I have explored ethnographically how Punjabi, Hindu, Asian, Black, Indian, and British identifications are produced by people. In focusing on the spaces of difference that make being and becoming Vilayati, Asian, Punjabi, Hindu, Black, British, NRI, and PIO potential identifications for people, I have highlighted the role of claims to cultural knowledge and agency that create specific constructions of collective agency within the transnational frame. Transnationalism is a modality of lived experience in which migrants constantly and subtlety (re-)create globalization through their choices and negotiations of identification. The articulation of a “third space” (Bhabha 1990a, 1990b) disrupts any easy understandings...

  13. Glossary
    (pp. 211-216)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 217-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  16. Index
    (pp. 257-267)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-268)