Uniform TitleThe ABCD conundrum: what does it mean to be a South Asian-American woman?
NameBadruddoja, Roksana (author), Brooks, Ethel (chair), Zerubavel, Eviatar (internal member), Williams, Richard (internal member), Puar, Jasbir (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School-New Brunswick,
South Asian American women,
Children of immigrants
DescriptionIn this dissertation, I explore the perceptions of second-generation South Asian-American women about daily social practices in the U.S. and how they view themselves in comparison to broader American society. I do this by engaging in an eight-month long feminist ethnographic study with a cross-national sample of twenty-five women in the U.S. I spent a day in the life of each woman, eating, drinking, and talking about work,
partners, families, food, clothing, and how they feel about being children of immigrants, among other areas of interest. In my work, I ask the following questions: What are the meanings of ABCD or American-Born Confused Desi - a popular term for second generation
South Asian Americans - in the U.S. racial and ethnic imaginary? How do these meanings travel through class, gender, sexual, and cultural hierarchies, both in the United States and transnationally? The notion of binary constructs within white, western, and feminist thinking is an important conceptual tool in this study. The oppositional poles of East/West, white/black, man/woman, and South Asian/American acquire social significance and meaning through Orientalist knowledge production - an assumed
experience based on dominant representation - rendering the second-generation as misplaced and cultural-conflict-bound. The testimonies reveal that such expectations do not wholly reflect the realities of my research participants' lives. While the women I interviewed experience "whiteness" and the oppressor role along class lines, they are also asked to distance themselves from their "whiteness" through imposed racial and cultural definitions, taking on the role of the oppressed, and at times not, vis-a-vis black people.
With time and age, the women's self-definitions come to include manipulation and expressions of opposition as they grow to appreciate "their culture" while simultaneously owning whiteness and white spaces. Here, through the appropriation of Orientalist tropes, my respondents construct "resistant identities." The Orientalist dichotomies between East and West and tradition and modernity fall far behind the actual construction of the women's identities and dispersion of culture. The twenty-five women's oral histories speak to the gendered and sexualized discourses of assimilation, racism, and U.S. Orientalism, as well as the multiple points in which they break down. The conceptual insights gained from studying second-generation South Asian-American women are not limited. Here, I focus on broader theoretical or epistemological concerns - identity, identity grammar, and shifts in identity grammar. My informants reveal the process of identity-management and that it is not a uniquely second-generation South Asian-American enterprise. This study situates itself on the margins of both U.S. nationalism and South Asian-American cultural nationalism within the context of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and South Asian-American femininities.
Note[NULL] Includes bibliographical references (p. 239-256).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.