Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans

Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans

Temple University Press
May 1992
352 page
Paper EAN: 978-1-56639-202-0, ISBN: 1-56639-202-0
Cloth EAN: 978-0-87722-890-5, ISBN: 0-87722-890-6
Electronic Book: EAN: 978-1-43990-364-3

Karen Isaksen Leonard, Professor of Anthropology
University of California, Irvine

This is a study of the flexibility of ethnic identity. In the early twentieth century, men from India’s Punjab province came to California to work on the land. The new immigrants had few chances to marry. There were very few marriageable Indian women, and miscegenation laws and racial prejudice limited their ability to find white Americans. Discovering an unexpected compatibility, Punjabis married women of Mexican descent and these alliances inspired others as the men introduced their bachelor friends to the sisters and friends of their wives. These biethnic families developed an identity as “Hindus” but also as Americans. Karen Leonard has related theories linking state policies and ethnicity to those applied at the level of marriage and family life. Using written sources and numerous interviews, she invokes gender, generation, class, religion, language, and the dramatic political changes of the 1940s in South Asia and the United States to show how individual and group perceptions of ethnic identity have changed among Punjabi Mexican Americans in rural California.

Read chapter 1 here.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Part I: Introduction
  • Part II: The World of the Pioneers
    • 2. Contexts: California and the Punjab
    • 3. Early Days in the Imperial Valley
    • 4. Marriages and Children
    • 5. Male and Female Networks
    • 6. Conflict and Love in the Marriages
  • Part III: The Construction of Ethnic Identity
    • 7. Childhood in Rural California
    • 8. The Second Generation Comes of Age
    • 9. Political Change and Ethnic Identity
    • 10. Encounters with the Other
    • 11. Contending Voices
  • Appendixes
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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