Political Science Professors Conduct Research on Indian Diaspora

Dr. Barbara Kinsey and Dr. Nikola Mirilovic of the UCF Political Science Department have conducted a research project partially funded by The India Center.

The two scholars describe their project, entitled “The Impact of Diaspora Transnationalism: Migration from India to the United States,” as follows: The project examines the political, economic and cultural activities and role of Indian-American communities and their organizations in the United States and also in their Indian state of origin. The project focuses on Gujarati and Keralite organizations and communities, and compares their activism in the U.S. and in India, in connection with U.S. policy and the U.S.-Indian relationship. In studying diaspora transnationalism, they take into account both the state of origin and the host country because they expect that the institutional and policy experiences in the former affect activism in the latter. Previous research tends to examine immigrant integration as involving primarily activism developed in the U.S. However, immigrants’ activism is also influenced by the institutional and cultural context in their place of origin.

As part of this project, and with the financial support of an internal grant and The India Center, they conducted field work in New York City, where Gujarati and Keralite communities and organizations are located in Queens. They interviewed the leadership of Gujarati and Keralite organizations and U.S. city council and state assembly officials. In New York, as elsewhere in the U.S., the Indian-American community is growing in numbers, prosperity and political influence. Public officials describe the community as having a strong cultural presence, and also as economically successful, and politically active in community councils. Currently, one of the city council districts is vacant and among the contestants for the seat there are three Indian-American candidates. Thus, it appears that the community is moving from political participation to representation in a relatively short span since settling in New York compared to other immigrant communities. Political representation is also an active concern of both Gujarati and Keralite communities; both emphasize civic duty and public involvement, and would like to see members of their respective community occupying public office. The factors that account for the policy preferences of Gujarati and Keralite communities are the aim of their ongoing research.

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