South Asian Women and Marriage: Experiences of a Cultural Script

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Gender Issues

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Although the South Asian community is one of the largest and fastest growing immigrant populations in the country, there is a paucity of social science research about these communities. A number of authors have assumed the importance of gender, marriage, and family within South Asian diasporic culture; however, relatively little research has explored South Asian women’s lived experiences from their own perspectives or across generations. This study sought to understand how first and second generation South Asian women in the US understand their experiences of race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and diaspora. Through qualitative analysis of interviews with 30 South Asian women living in the US, I show that across generations, messages about (heterosexual) marriage emerged as central to how women understood their gendered experience and, as such, marriage and being marriageable function as a “cultural script” for middle-class South Asian womanhood. Women’s narratives elucidate some of the specific messages of this “cultural script” and everyday ways this script is indirectly and directly communicated to women within family and community interactions.



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