Date of Award
Thesis and Dissertation
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of English
As the demographic and linguistic landscape in the United States is shifting—the Asian population has increased significantly in the last decade, particularly the South Asian population—these changes are reflected in the classrooms all over the country. As such, it becomes imperative to investigate who these multilinguals are, and as several scholars have pointed out, the Asian population has not been studied to the same extent as other minorities. In addition, the notion of a homogenous Asian identity persists and hides the internal differences that exist within the Asian population.
Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to challenge the notion of a homogenous Asian identity by exploring the identity struggles and identity negotiation of South Asian Americans. To understand their identity struggles and negotiation processes, a post-structural perspective was adopted and narrative inquiry was employed to broaden the range of methodologies that are used to research multilingual identities. A corpus consisting of memoirs and short narratives written by South Asian Americans was created and analyzed.
From the analysis of the narratives, four themes emerged: Theme 1: Indexing the “Other,” Theme 2: Labels and self-identification, Theme 3: Positioning of self and others, and Theme 4: Linguistic identities. Theme 1 concerns the ways in which the writers were “othered,” mainly through physical attributes, their names, and cultural practices that they engaged in that were not seen as American. Theme 2 shows that the writers mainly identified and referred to themselves through their ethnic heritage, and Theme 3 reveals that the writers commonly positioned themselves as outsiders and different from the white American. Lastly, Theme 4 highlights the writers’ complicated relationship with English and that a standard language ideology persists.
Echoing previous research, the findings of this study suggest that the construction and negotiation of multilingual identities are very much linked to larger societal issues grounded in a limited view of what it means to be American, pervasive language ideologies that promote Standard English varieties, as well as the persisting notion of a singular Asian identity. Additionally, employing narrative inquiry has opened up for additional possibilities to study multilingual identities, which I suggest should be explored further to expand on identity research that is currently conducted in applied linguistics and related fields.
Khor, Su Yin, "“They ate macaroni-and-cheese or TV dinners; my mother made curry instead”: A narrative inquiry of South Asian American writers’ identity negotiation" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 759.