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“Ain’t Nobody Like My Desi Girl”: An Analysis of New York City’s Indian-American Women as Model Minorities

Walia, Mallika P.

Indian immigrants have flourished in the United States, often outperforming both other immigrant groups and the native-born population. Consequently, they have come to be considered “model minorities” who are deemed too successful to truly be a minority. However, this framework paints Indian-Americans in an inaccurate light, especially obscuring the struggles of Indian-American women. This thesis sheds light on the compelling factors that impact these women’s lives on a day-to-day basis and shows that these factors significantly shape their perception of their hyphenated identities, a truly difficult struggle that is not adequately captured by the model minority paradigm. Indian- American women battle internal pressure applied by their families and communities to eschew American values and instead adhere to their ethnic identities while simultaneously bearing the brunt of external pressure, such as racism and stereotypes, that cast their Indian roots in a negative light, especially post-9/11. Thus, these women must constantly negotiate the tension between their two seemingly incompatible worlds. Today, these women look to each other and to organizations that foster Indian-American female solidarity to ameliorate some of this tension. Such spaces provide these women emotional support as well as a community that works together to address some of the most systemic issues that plague Indian-American women. These women have also begun reimagining their roles in America’s racial fabric and have started actively engaging with race as people of color. Thus, despite the numerous challenges they face and their misrepresentation by the model minority paradigm, there remains cause for optimism for the future of Indian-American women in New York City.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Studies (Barnard College)
Thesis Advisors
Linn, Meredith
Degree
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
February 22, 2016
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