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Race, Religion, and Discrimination: South Asian Immigrants and Challenges of Panethnic Mobilization

Posted: 29 Mar 2010  

Sangay Mishra

Drew University


This paper analyzes the extent of panethnic South Asian identity formation and mobilization among South Asian immigrants in the United States. Based on the analysis of quantitative data from PNAAPS, 2001 and 60 in-depth interviews conducted with both leaders and community members of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities in Los Angeles and New York City, the questions which this paper ask are: Does the experience of discrimination based on skin color, appearance, foreign origin shape a panethnic identity of South Asian American? Did the experience of racial targeting of immigrants of South Asian Origin after September 11th, 2001 play a catalyzing role in shaping a broad South Asian American identity? The paper argues that broader panethnic identities such as South Asian and Asian American are always in constant negotiation with more firmly rooted categories such as Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi. There is a limited acceptability of the category of South Asian among first generation immigrants from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. However, there are political mobilization attempts within these communities using the broader South Asian panethnic identity to gain some level of political efficacy. These attempts of broader South Asian panethnic mobilization coexist with mobilization and identity formation around the country of origin which emphasizes religious, linguistic, and country of origin distinctions which get strengthened by strong transnational linkages.

Suggested Citation

Mishra, Sangay, Race, Religion, and Discrimination: South Asian Immigrants and Challenges of Panethnic Mobilization. Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper . Available at SSRN:

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