Meaning of migration, gender and identities in the lives of Asian Indian women: An exploratory study

Meeta Aggarwal Kumar, University of Pennsylvania


The present study is an attempt at exploring meaning of migration in the lives of Asian Indian women. In personal narrative form, women provide an insight into the experiences that shape their lives as females growing up in India, reason for migration, and the changes brought forth by migration in aspects of redefining the self, the community, gender relations and functioning as members of a new society. The research problems identified for the present study deal with paucity of literature regarding migration issues of Asian Indian women in the field of psychology. There is also lack of information in the literature regarding issues of complexity, contradictions and ambiguity in understanding gender and migration experiences of Asian Indian women. The second problem that this study will address is methodological in how migration has been conceptualized and operationalized in psychology. The methodology in studying migration has moved towards quantifying cultural and experiential variables. It is felt that this is inadequate to understand processes, intricacies and idiosyncratic nuances of cultural definitions and choices. It also fails to allow for a ‘both and’ quality in existences and multiplicity in identities. For the purpose of the present study, the interview format was used to gather historical information about the participants' lives and experiences. The researcher interviewed 6 migrant Asian Indian women in and around the suburbs of Philadelphia and New Jersey. A multi-session format was used for the interviews. The interviews revealed the complexity of person-context interactions and how they shape gender roles. Specifically, the women provided insights into multiple messages they received growing up and ways they attempted to cope, accept and resist. With reference to migration, this study reveals the connections between pre-migration experiences and later lives as well as shifts in roles that occur upon migration. The study also explores issues of balancing multiple identities, social concerns that confront them and perceived life stage outcomes.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Social psychology|Womens studies|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Kumar, Meeta Aggarwal, "Meaning of migration, gender and identities in the lives of Asian Indian women: An exploratory study" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9937747.