Making Ethnic Choices: California's Punjabi Mexican Americans / Edition 1

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Overview

This is a study of the flexibility of ethnic identity. In the early twentieth century, men from India's Punjab province came to California to work on the land. The new immigrants had few chances to marry. There were very few marriageable Indian women, and miscegenation laws and racial prejudice limited their ability to find white Americans. Discovering an unexpected compatibility, Punjabis married women of Mexican descent, and these alliances inspired others as the men introduced their bachelor friends to the sisters and friends of their wives. These biethnic families developed an identity as "Hindus" but also as Americans. In this work, Karen Isaksen Leonard has related theories linking state policies and ethnicity to those applied at the level of marriage and family life. Using written sources and numerous interviews, she invokes gender, generation, class, religion, language, and the dramatic political changes of the 1940s in South Asia and the United States to show how individual and group perceptions of ethnic identity have changed among Punjabi Mexican Americans in rural California. The intermarriages featured conflict as well as respect and love, and the Punjabi-Mexican families formed a unique community in many ways. As she inquired about the childhood experiences of people with names like Maria Jesusita Singh, Leonard discovered the swift communication network of the "Mexican Hindus," the dynamics between domineering Indian men, and the strong kinship ties and compadrazgo relationships of their Hispanic wives. She describes the cultural inventiveness of the children of these unions, who claimed the "Hindu" identity despite their incomplete inheritance of Punjabi culture. She also examines the problematic kinship between recent South Asian immigrants and the Punjabi Mexican Americans. Assembling life stories as well as collective biographies of localized groups, Leonard demonstrates that ethnicity is both persistent and flexible, that ethnic identities a
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566392020
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Asian American History and Culture Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Isaksen Leonard is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. I Introduction
1 Exploring Ethnicity 3
Pt. II The World of the Pioneers
2 Contexts: California and the Punjab 17
3 Early Days in the Imperial Valley 37
4 Marriages and Children 62
5 Male and Female Networks 79
6 Conflict and Love in the Marriages 101
Pt. III The Construction of Ethnic Identity
7 Childhood in Rural California 123
8 The Second Generation Comes of Age 144
9 Political Change and Ethnic Identity 163
10 Encounters with the Other 185
11 Contending Voices 203
Appendixes 223
Notes 227
Bibliography 293
Index 321
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