Theses Doctoral

Sākshi: The Transnational Consciousness of Second-Generation Indian American Teachers

Viswanathan, Indu

The United States is increasingly populated by first- and second-generation Asian immigrants, while nearly 40% of New York State minors live with at least one immigrant parent. Immigration is a politically-charged topic. There is a persistent lacuna regarding immigration in teacher education, despite the fact that teachers’ attitudes about immigration impact how they teach about immigration and immigrants. Yet, discussions about diversifying the profession rarely move beyond race or include transnationalism or religion. When immigrant teacher voices are amplified, the focus is often on first-generation immigrants’ struggles with acculturation and English language acquisition. Teaching for inclusion and social justice seldom recognizes or incorporates the knowledges of second-generation immigrant teachers.

This study is theoretically grounded in transnational feminism, transnational literacy, and decoloniality; it recognizes the United States as an imperialist, settler colonial nation that promotes and forces its image upon other countries and people from other countries, often in the name of multiculturalism, justice, and humanitarianism. Most Indian Americans are not Christian (in contrast to the majority of immigrants from East Asia); this gave significant cause to disaggregate the category of Asian American and discover if the transnational consciousness of second-generation Indian American teachers might offer unique insights into the intersection of immigration, immigrant experiences, and inclusive education. Four New York City-based teachers volunteered to participate in the study. Data was collected over the course of seven months in one-on-one interviews, group dinners, and in a private WhatsApp group. The teachers articulated asset-based views on immigrants, with an emic understanding of the factors that animate acculturation and resistance to assimilation. Their experiences and knowledges were embedded within transnational social fields that were locally grounded. The participants’ transnational consciousness illuminated dominant epistemic norms in school, media, and society, including: individualism; monotheistic, Christian epistemic normativity; and a persistent colonial gaze on Hinduism and India. None of the participants had explored their immigrant knowledges as a part of their teacher education experiences. The study indicates that further engagement with the knowledges and transnational consciousness of second-generation immigrant teachers would enrich teacher education practices and research, and theorizing about social justice education.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Yoon, Haeny S.
Vasudevan, Lalitha M.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 22, 2021