Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

By Ahmed Afzal | Go to book overview

Introduction

I had been in Houston for less than a week when I realized the difficulty in figuring out where cultural life took place for the interlocutors for my research: Pakistani Americans and Pakistani immigrants. Like many new immigrants in Houston, Pakistanis reside throughout Greater Houston. Even in the sections of southwest Houston along Hillcroft Avenue, Harwin Drive, and Bissonnet Street where Pakistani businesses and residential enclaves predominate, Pakistanis are a part of an ethnically and racially diverse landscape that also includes, among others, Afghani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Ecuadorian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Nigerian, Palestinian, and Vietnamese businesses and residential communities. During this initial period of research, I could not discern a recognizable South Asian ethnic center that would not only anchor my research but also provide me with a sense of ethnic rootedness and belonging in an as yet unfamiliar city.

On one of my first exploratory visits, when I was wondering how, in a city as vast and populous as Houston, I would ever locate Pakistani interlocutors, I got into a cab to explore Hillcroft Avenue. The cab driver turned out to be a middle-aged Pakistani man named Wasim. As I learned during the ride, he had relocated with his family from New York City to Houston a few years earlier. “I wanted to be closer to my brother who lives here,” he told me. “Besides, it’s tough to raise a family in New York — life is so fast there. Houston is better that way.”

While we continued our conversation, Wasim headed south on Hillcroft Avenue. I looked out the window and saw storefronts advertising Middle Eastern businesses in English and Arabic. Passing Harwin Drive, Arabic-language storefronts are replaced by South Asian and Latino businesses with storefronts in Urdu, Hindi, and Spanish. The blazing late summer sun and the oppressive humidity gave sidewalks

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