A study of Asian Indian women in the United States: The reconceptualization of self

Shalini Dev Bhutani, University of Pennsylvania


Select women participated in this study of resettlement process and assimilation of immigrant Asian Indian women in the U.S. By connecting the pre-immigration socialization pattern of Asian Indian women with its impact on their day to day life in the U.S., this study uncovers the personal experiences of this post World War II immigration group. Viewing the immigration process as a 'transition point' in the lives of these women, this study examines the adaptation and coping mechanisms adopted by the women, and explores how a redefined self perception alters personal goals and objectives in life and impacts on the dynamics of daily living. By using the personal narrative method, this study uncovers women's perspectives, and moves beyond the conventional stories of women's lives to gather new insights about women's experiences of themselves in their worlds. The lives of the women were characterized by dimensions of their varied experiences in every day living. The specific recurrent themes I encountered were changing realities in areas of family and friendship, professional life, discrimination and loss of social status, gender expectations, and parenting the second generation. As women balanced the pay-offs and trade-offs of life in America, they viewed their greatest gains in the sphere of individual freedom, personal growth and expanded options, whereas their greatest losses were in the area of family and social life, and in their altered socially proscribed status. As the dealt with the conditions of living in two vastly different worlds, they sought to achieve a personal equilibrium by a process of reconceptualization of their own personal identity. The price paid for this self discovery led some to yearn to return to their familiar world and some to realize that they no longer had this option. For others this nostalgia was balanced by the advantages of living in the U.S. both for themselves and their children. As they sought to achieve the benefits of living in both worlds, they defined for themselves a new sense of community and well being. By addressing some important issues that impact on the lives of women in the Asian Indian immigrant community, this study offers new insights into the areas of Women's Studies, South Asian Studies as well as studies on immigration. By documenting women's representations of their own reality, it provides opportunities for debate and conscious raising within the community itself, as well as contributes to a better understanding of Asian Indian society and Asian Indians as a whole.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Bhutani, Shalini Dev, "A study of Asian Indian women in the United States: The reconceptualization of self" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9427501.