“Being Young, Brown, and Hindu” by Prema Kurien essay

The article “Being Young, Brown, and Hindu: The Identity Struggles of Second-Generation Indian Americans” by Prema Kurien provides detailed overview what it means to be an immigrant and to belong to minority in the USA. Actually, the article deals with what it means to be Hindu, what drawbacks and benefits Hindu have and how they are able to adapt to unfamiliar country. Kurien mentions that the “new second generation” of immigrants is a matter of interest of scholars. They define this generation as a “critical generation who will determine the future patterns of race and ethnicity in the United States”.

(Kurien 2005) Discussion in the article is based on Hindu Student Council chapter at “Western University” in California. Kurien describes the efforts of Hindu Americans who are willing to cope and to fight race and she claims that many Indian Americans belong to organizations, though sometimes they are also involved in cleavages and conflicts within. The author tries to identify whether religious institutions play important role for Indian Americans, whether they assist in identity construction and in overcoming complex interplay between religion, ethnicity and race.

It is argued that these concepts are neglected and ignored by “the dominant sociological models of immigrant incorporation”. (Kurien 2005) Kurien also asserts that conventional categories of ethnicity and race created by Americans are inadequate, because they provide invalid understanding of life and experiences of modern immigrant families. The author notes that “since the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which liberalized immigration policies, the United States has witnessed a second period of mass immigration”.

(Kurien 2005) The negative moment is the fact that this immigration wave coincides with decline of fertility in the country. Therefore, immigration is considered as the primary source of population growth, thought he population is foreign-born residents. It is necessary to admit that the literature devoted to examining of immigration in the USA provides two main models of immigrant adaptation: the ethnic model and the model of racial minority. The first model is represented by European immigrants who are able to reconcile their ethnic identity and to fit it to identity of the American society.

The second model is racial minorities being unable to be incorporated in to the American mainstream because of their racial identities. (Kurien 2005) Author’s analysis is only a significant part of studies devoted to policing and ethnicity among religious groups of Indian Americans of the second generation. She claims that Hindu organizations are similar to that of the religious groups in the USA meaning that their organizations also ensure developing of Hindu American community and identity as well as assist in transition to “ethnic” Americans.

The article provides vivid interviews of Indian Americans, who come from the professional families, upper-middle-class and whose parent belong to the first wave of modern immigrants i. e. 1960-1970s, though several interviewees are from prominent Indian families. During interviewing the author outlines several interesting patterns differentiating the pro-Hindu and moderate factions. (Kurien 2005) American identity formation of second generation Indian have neglected and ignored religion.

However, Kurien admits that religion should play crucial role in Hindu identity formation, because religion may be used for fighting racial marginality or preventing it. Therefore, the author pays special attention to examining how involvement in religious institutes affects the process of immigrant adaptation. For example, she states that “the reactive ethnicity of the pro-Hindu HSC members did not seem to have led them to turn away from mainstream American institutions”.

(Kurien 2005) Pro-Hindus were more successful that individuals of moderate ideology, simply because they considered education, especially professional education, as a core of fighting racial and ethnic barriers in the country. The next reason is that “much of the hostility or oppositional identity that the pro-Hindu group developed due to their experience of racial marginality came to be directed against Muslims rather than against mainstream America”. (Kurien 2005)

Kurein draw a conclusion that moral and financial support of the second generation Indian Americans only fostered development of religious organizations in order to promote cultural diversity in both India and the USA. The author explains that multiculturalism or cultural diversity aims at legitimizing the development of modular cultural nationalisms among ethnic and racial groups if it doesn’t address the issues of unequal structures and racism practicing.

Kurien argues: “What is crucial therefore seems to be the development of a reconstructed multiculturalism that addresses these issues and thus brings about a genuine change in the conception and treatment of nonwhite and non-Western ethnic communities in this country”. (Kurien 2005) I think that the article is of great importance as the questions of cultural diversity, minority groups and racism are the matters of concern not only in the USA, but also in the most countries of Europe. The article touches not only ethical, but also legislative aspects of the problem.

Therefore the author tries to define the proper ways out and to persuade readers to re-think and re-shape their attitudes towards minorities, because their incorporation is rather difficult process. (Kurien 2005) The article leads through abundant data presented to persuade readers that the problem should be solved. The author is rather persuasive, because she uses logical arguments, conclusions, facts and viewpoints of different critics to defend his position. Kurien makes people think themselves.

Concerning the content of the article, I’d like to say that the author touches the most important issues of contemporary culturally diverse world. It is known that the more differences exist between cultures, the more difficult is the process of immigrant incorporation. I think that scholars, news reporters and journalists should pay more attention to immigrant experience in the country. (Kurien 2005)


Kurien, Prema. (2005, August). Being Young, Brown, and Hindu: The Identity Struggles of Second-Generation Indian Americans. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 34, 4, 434-469.