Research in Progress

Over the next 3-5 years, I am pursuing two separate but related research projects.

Muslim American Panethnicity Based on Global Geopolitical Contexts:

My next research project builds on the analytical framework introduced in the dissertation and asks how contexts “elsewhere” both foster and inhibit panethnicity among different immigrant groups. Panethnicity is the grouping of different ethnic/national collectivities, largely perceived as homogenous by outsiders, under a single identity label at the organizational level. It is a way in which immigrants respond to adverse contexts in the receiving country. According to existing models of panethnic group formation, the post-9/11 Muslim backlash in the United States should have led to the emergence of a panethnic category encompassing the two largest Muslim American immigrant groups—South Asians and Middle Easterners. Yet, scholars note that such coalitions have not occurred, and are beginning to investigate why that is the case.

Based on completed preliminary observations, my research reveals a paradox. On one hand, various South Asian organizations remain strictly secular and distance themselves from activities that can categorize them as “Muslim.” Many, thus, are reluctant to adopt causes with connections to the Middle East, a region closely associated with Islam. On the other hand, various ethnic/national Muslim groups—including South Asians and Middle Easterners—coalesce around anti-colonial and human rights platforms focused on places in the Middle East, such as Palestine and Turkey. In both cases, the enabling and disabling of panethnic coalitions are connected to global political contexts stemming from “elsewhere”—in this case, the Middle East.

These observations deviate from the existing literature on panethnicity in two key ways. First, some panethnic coalitions are indeed emerging between Middle Easterners and South Asians. Second, contrary to burgeoning state-centric explanations, the answer to the puzzle of Muslim panethnic formation (or lack thereof) lies not solely within the receiving country, but is tied to ongoing global politics that spill across and beyond state borders.

As race and migration scholars are becoming increasingly interested in Muslim immigrant panethnicity, my research will provide a timely intervention through an ethnographic analysis of South Asian Muslim Americans engaged in three types of organizations: 1) ethnic/cultural (such as, those under a “South Asian” or “Desi” label); 2) religious (“Muslim”); and 3) political/activist (such as those built on Palestinian human rights or Muslim American civil rights platforms). This research design will allow me to identify in what organizational contexts panethnicity does or does not occur between South Asians and Middle Easterners, as well as the varying role of “elsewhere” as a contributing factor.

A Comparison of the Effects of Homeland, Hostland, and Global Politics on Muslim Immigrants in the United States and Canada:

I have also designed a research plan for a second project, which compares and contrasts the effects of global politics encompassing the homeland, hostland, and “elsewhere” on Muslims in the United States and Canada. Studies conducted by Canadian sociologists show that although the 9/11 attacks had occurred in the United States, South Asian Muslims in Canada experienced a climate of Islamophobic tensions, heightened security, and anti-terrorism concerns in their local communities—thus suggesting that global politics stemming from “elsewhere” (in this case, the United States) also affects immigrant groups in Canada. Furthermore, according to data from Statistics Canada, which is the Canada’s national statistical agency, the number of police-reported anti-Muslim hate crimes more than tripled between 2012 and 2015—a rise that mirrors the increase of Islamophobic attacks in the United States around the same time. However, despite both being neighboring countries in “the West,” their sociopolitical and racial dynamics, policies of immigrant incorporation, and patterns of Muslim integration differ widely, as evidenced more recently in the diverging responses of President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau to the Syrian refugee crisis. While the United States is enacting a “Muslim ban,” Canada is seemingly embracing Muslims and incoming refugees. Using ethnographic and interview data from South Asian Muslim communities in Montreal and Toronto, my research will show how diverging responses to a common global crisis affect the same immigrant group across two different nation-states.

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