The Immigration and Settlement of Asian Indians in Phoenix, Arizona 1965-2011: Ethnic Pride vs. Racial Discrimination in the Suburbs. By Skop Emily. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2012, pp. 315.
Version of Record online: 17 SEP 2013
© 2013 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York. All rights reserved.
International Migration Review
Volume 47, Issue 3, pages 777–778, September 2013
How to Cite
Teixeira, J. C. (2013), The Immigration and Settlement of Asian Indians in Phoenix, Arizona 1965-2011: Ethnic Pride vs. Racial Discrimination in the Suburbs. By Skop Emily. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2012, pp. 315. . International Migration Review, 47: 777–778. doi: 10.1111/imre.12044
- Issue online: 17 SEP 2013
- Version of Record online: 17 SEP 2013
The United States is currently an important immigrant-receiving country. It is widely known as a major destination for large numbers of international migrants, including Asian Indians, who have played a key role in shaping the social, economic, and political landscape of this country in the modern era. Indian migration to the U.S. dates to the late 1800s. However, it was only in the last 50 years that migration from India increased, with the most rapid rise occurring after 1990. Today, India is the second largest country supplying migrants to the U.S., coming in just after Mexico. Despite the fact that Asian Indians form an important segment of the U.S. population, studies dealing with this group are few, particularly in the nation's new immigrant gateways. Within this context, Phoenix (Arizona) becomes a good “social laboratory” to conduct a study of this nature. The author of this book reminds us that, as immigrants increasingly seek alternative destinations, new, emerging gateways should become key sites for inquiry.
Emily Skop's timely study on the immigration and settlement of Asian Indians in Phoenix – a newly emerging gateway for Indian migration in the U.S. and a destination where these immigrants remain largely “invisible” – explores the “critical interplay of suburban settlement in the (re)construction of Indian racial and ethnic identities” (p. 1). Drawing insight from migration studies, as well as urban, social, cultural, and ethnic geography, and combining qualitative and quantitative analysis, this well-structured and comprehensive study develops an understanding of the dynamics of space and place in racial and ethnic identity formation in Metropolitan Phoenix. A key question guiding this study is, “How do migrants living in far-flung suburban neighborhoods negotiate their racial and ethnic identities?” (p. 1). In answering this question, Skop bridges a major gap within the social sciences concerning Asian Indian immigrants – a largely unseen ethnic group in the suburbs of new gateways – and migration studies in North America. Moreover, by giving voice to an important and understudied immigrant group, she provides an invaluable perspective on a growing community in a newly emerging U.S. gateway city and its suburbs, from the perspective of an “outsider” to the group. Within this context, the author also notes that for the Asian Indian community, and in contrast to other migrant groups in the U.S. that mostly feel only the negative impacts of racialization, “the process creates both potentially rewarding and punitive outcomes” (p. x).
Aside from the introduction and conclusion, this book includes five chapters and a useful appendix describing the study's methods. Chapter 1 introduces the book's theoretical framework. The author uses a “situational matrix”; that is, a framework for “investigating the interdependency between migrants, the organizations that represent them, and local, national, and international forces” (p. 5). In using this situational matrix, the author argues that racial and ethnic identities are shaped on a variety of scales. Chapter 2, “Passage from India: Migration to the United States,” presents an in-depth picture of Indian migration to the U.S. – the numbers, diversity, geography, and “invisibility” of this immigrant group in newly emerging gateway cities and their suburbs. Chapter 3, “Creating Phoenix's Indian Community,” examines Indian settlement patterns (both residential and business) in Phoenix. Despite the tremendous growth of the community in the last two decades, clustering is minimal and has not intensified over time: “[N]o neighbourhoods are easily ‘identifiable’ as ‘Indian’ in Phoenix…[and]…a ‘Little India’ is not apparent in the landscape” (p. 54). This chapter also describes how the history of Indian migration to Phoenix has helped create this “invisible” landscape.
In Chapter 4, “Permanent Spaces of Community Interaction,” the author outlines the critical dynamics and interplay of suburban settlement in the (re)construction of racial and ethnic identity formation for Phoenix's Indian migrant population. Attention here is focused on the few “visible” signs in the suburban landscapes that help to create a sense of solidarity among Asian migrants. Three permanent spaces where Indian migrants are active in Phoenix were selected: the Indo-American Cultural and Religious Centre, the Hindu Temple of Arizona, and Indian restaurants and businesses. In Chapter 5, “Transitory Spaces of Community Interaction,” on the other hand, the author examines “transitory” or less visible spaces and sites of Indian-ness in Phoenix, including schools, movie theaters, and public parks. In these spaces, local migrants craft alternative ways to bring dispersed families together to promote their own version of “Indian-ness” and to celebrate divergent traditions.
In Chapter 6, “Individual Identity Formation,” the author explores interesting variability in the degree to which new immigrants are integrated and attached to the local Phoenix Indian community. She notes that “individual migrants do not necessarily make use of the various sites of interaction, nor do they inevitably work tenaciously toward preserving a sense of ‘Indian-ness’” (p. 143). Finally, in Chapter 7, the conclusion, the author links the spatial patterning of Indian migrants to the social processes of racialization and ethnic identity formation.
Asian migrant communities in the U.S. are communities in transition whose geographies are being reworked. This well-written book represents an excellent study of a specific group of immigrants (Asian Indians) that, until recently, had been underrepresented in studies of U.S. migration. Given the significance of the perspectives and questions raised by it, I hope that this book will encourage further comparative research on the settlement experiences and suburbanization process of “old” and “new” immigrant groups to better understand which groups of immigrants are more successful than others when integrating into a new society and why. This book has a wealth of useful information, as well as policy implications. It is, thus, highly recommended to policymakers, government officials interested in immigrant integration in old and new gateway cities, and to scholars and university students (both undergraduate and graduate) working on migration studies in North America and on Asian migration specifically.