Highly educated Indian and Pakistani immigrants arrived in boomtown Houston in the 1960s and 1970s, readily securing employment as engineers or other white- collar professionals. At the same time, they faced racism in housing, the workplace, university campuses, and restaurants. Asians were “conditionally included”—that is, accepted for their economic value but often, socially outcast. The racial calculations made by Indian and Pakistani immigrants in a rapidly internationalizing city were fraught with contradictions. They sought places and spaces where they felt tolerated, even if not completely welcomed into the fold. At the same time, they wielded their class status and ethnicity as tools by which they could both distance themselves from other racialized minorities and attempt to bypass their own racialization altogether. The experiences of immigrants of color reveals the racial architecture—that is, those norms that upheld the structure of white privilege—of a changing American South
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In August 1947, the euphoria generated by the creation of newly independent India and Pakistan was celebrated by peoples far removed from the Subcontinent, including among the descendants of Indian indentured laborers in the British island colony of Trinidad. Trinidad’s East Indians reveled in the newfound freedom of their now-divided, overseas, ethnic compatriots. The masses of East Indians felt a surge of pride in the overthrow of colonial rule, evidenced by their attendance at parades, talks, and celebrations. In the months and weeks leading up to independence, East Indians debated the merits and disadvantages of partition. Some advocated firmly the idea of a unified ethnic “Indian” community in Trinidad, whereas others constructed clear boundaries between proponents of Pakistan versus India, thus fortifying tenuous and contingent divisions between Trinidad’s Hindus and Muslims.
This essay demonstrates that the culmination of Indian independence and partition exacerbated the diverging identities of Hindu and Muslim Trinidadians. I argue that Indian independence and the creation of Pakistan had global ramifications for the meaning of “Indian-ness” in the British colonies including Trinidad and elsewhere. East Indians’ appeal to nationalism interrogates the construction of national and cultural identity spatially and temporally distant from the source, ultimately affirming the salience of a religio-national identity. Furthermore, the net-works of communication established between Indians in places such as Trinidad, England, and the United States produced “diffracted” diasporic identities that were mediated through these interactions.
Co-authored epilogue with David Ponton III and Brian D. Behnken Race, Place, and Power in Houston, eds. Brian D. Behnken, Alexander X. Byrd, and Emily E. Strauss (anthology, under advance contract with LSU Press)
Currently, Quraishi is working on a major project that examines the strategic uses of India’s independence among Indian Hindu and Muslim diasporic communities around the world in the 1940s. Enlarging the geographic scope of her immigration history research, her second project is a study of diasporic consciousness and identity building, the project considers the discourse surrounding Indian and Pakistani independence in 1947 among ethnic Indians in the western Atlantic World. A multi-sited examination focusing on North America, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom, it explores how racially marginalized communities used the far-removed independence movement in India as a vehicle for greater visibility, status, and empowerment in their own societies. Quraishi argue that Indian independence and the creation of Pakistan had global ramifications for the meaning of “Indianness” for subjects of the British empire throughout the Indian diaspora.
In addition to the second book project, Quraishi is also at work on various projects on the U.S. public diplomacy and the Third World. One of these projects focuses on cultural diplomacy in Pakistan. It bridges themes of resistance and solidarity among those of the Global South—an imagined community of colonized and postcolonial peoples that includes segregated African Americans and recently independent Pakistanis. Another project examines international students during the Cold War.