American Karma

Race, Culture, and Identity in the Indian Diaspora

270 pages

August, 2007

ISBN: 9780814799598



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Part of the Qualitative Studies in Psychology series


Sunil Bhatia is Associate Professor of Human Development at Connecticut College.

All books by Sunil Bhatia

The Indian American community is one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in the U.S. Unlike previous generations, they are marked by a high degree of training as medical doctors, engineers, scientists, and university professors.

American Karma draws on participant observation and in-depth interviews to explore how these highly skilled professionals have been inserted into the racial dynamics of American society and transformed into “people of color.” Focusing on first-generation, middle-class Indians in American suburbia, it also sheds light on how these transnational immigrants themselves come to understand and negotiate their identities.

Bhatia forcefully contends that to fully understand migrant identity and cultural formation it is essential that psychologists and others think of selfhood as firmly intertwined with sociocultural factors such as colonialism, gender, language, immigration, and race-based immigration laws.

American Karma offers a new framework for thinking about the construction of selfhood and identity in the context of immigration. This innovative approach advances the field of psychology by incorporating critical issues related to the concept of culture, including race, power, and conflict, and will also provide key insights to those in anthropology, sociology, human development, and migrant studies.


  • “Offers a new framework to examine selfhood and self identity in the context of immigration.”

    India New England

  • “Effectively blends identity theory and ethnography to examine the immigrant experience of first-generation, professional Indians. Provoking reflection on the racial dynamics and identity politics of American society, this work goes a long way towards humanizing what it means to be an immigrant in the United States.”

    —Cynthia Lightfoot, Penn State University, Delaware County

  • “A productive move in developing new directions in the study of desire, agency, and ambiguous inequality among immigrant populations in the contemporary Americas.”

    —Aisha Khan, New York University

  • “Bhatia offers a well historicised, theoretically astute analysis of the racial, cultural and ethnic identities of Indian immigrants and their families living in predominantly white suburbs of New England.”

    South Asian Diaspora