Ethnic Routes to Becoming American: Indian Immigrants and the Cultures of Citizenship

Synopsis

How does an immigrant become an ethnic American? And does American society fundamentally alter because of these newcomers? In Ethnic Routes to Becoming American, Sharmila Rudrappa examines the paths South Asian immigrants in Chicago take toward assimilation in the late twentieth-century United States, where deliberations on citizenship rights are replete with the politics of recognition. She takes us inside two ethnic institutions, a battered women's shelter, Apna Ghar, and a cultural organization, the Indo American Center, to show how immigrant activism, which brings cultural difference into public sphere debates, ironically abets these immigrants' assimilation. She interlaces ethnographic details with political-philosophical debates on the politics of recognition and redistribution. In this study on the under-researched topic of the incorporation of South Asian immigrants into the American polity, Sharmila Rudrappa compels us to rethink ethnic activism, participatory democracy, and nation-building processes.