Multiple Mobilities: Race, Capital, and South Asian Migrations to and Through Houston
Boles, John B.
Doctor of Philosophy
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 proved to be a watershed that altered the demographic composition of the United States in unexpected and unprecedented ways. Immigrants from India and Pakistan (part of South Asia) represented a highly educated elite migration in the 1960s and 1970s and filled a gap in the American economy for technical and science-based labor. This advantage aided their emerging communities in achieving socio-economic success with unanticipated speed. This dissertation addresses the central question of this nexus of power—the social and economic systems of privilege—that enabled immigrant mobility after 1965. I argue that due to the significant achievements of the Civil Rights and ethnic empowerment projects of the late 1960s, South Asian immigrants were able use their material wealth to position themselves strategically through residential patterns and school selection in order to gain the maximum privileges associated with whiteness; they simultaneously sought to create social distance between themselves and other racialized, marginalized groups. This research examines linkages and networks between geographically remote regions but ones that have been heavily invested in the expansion of capitalist systems. South Asians inserted themselves into a racially defined society, thereby consolidating both their social position and their economic and eventual political power. The struggles of all minority groups are central to the nation’s conceptual formation of itself—they delimit the boundaries of identities and of a national ethos. In addition, the immigrant generation of Indians and Pakistanis in the U.S. continues to play a crucial role in ethnic community development by providing leadership, cultural schooling, and entrepreneurial enclaves through which young co-ethnics construct ethnic identities and consume ethnic culture. Finally, as these particular immigrant groups have accumulated wealth —Indian and Pakistani Americans are among the highest-earning ethnic groups in the United States—they and their descendants are increasingly politically visible; my work seeks to explain this rapid rise to power.