Navigating Desi American Cultural Identity


  • Chandha Dhinaker Obra D. Tompkins High School
  • Jim Haisler Obra D. Tompkins High School



Keywords: South Asian, Indian, Desi, American, Hinduism, cultural identity, immigration, temple access, stereotypes, model minority myth, hegemony.


The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 began a major shift in US immigration patterns, with Indian immigration seeing a notable uptick in the late 1900s. As Indian immigrant populations began increasing in the United States, the predominantly Christian America began to increase tolerance towards religions previously viewed as “heathenistic” (i.e., Hinduism). Understanding the impact Asian-Indian immigrants have had on the cultural and religious landscape of the Western world is essential in order to conceptualize and navigate the true depth of South Asian cultural identities. Thus, it becomes crucial to acknowledge these cultural placements not as a haphazard assemblage of identities, but rather as a product of relationships with religion and the adoption of both ethnic and racial identifying terms. A more assiduous exploration of the comprehensive history of Hinduism in America and the discourse of social identity development as a Desi-American illuminates the dichotomous relationship between religion and socialization in the formation of cultural identity. For South Asian Americans especially, the contiguity of learned cultures, in addition to the cultural environment an individual is raised in plays a significant role in the construction of one’s identity. Consequently, the differences in identity development and perspectives between two Indian sub-groups in the US (first-generation/Indian-born; second-generation/American-born) can be understood by canvassing several socio-cultural factors of influence such as the level of interplay within culture and religion in the social landscape, availability and access to temples, nomenclature used for personal identification, and conformity to the “Model Minority” myth.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Jim Haisler, Obra D. Tompkins High School


References or Bibliography

Chandrasekaran, P. R. (2017). UNSETTLING “INDIAN AMERICAN HINDUS” AND MODEL MINORITY PROJECTS IN TRUMP-ERA “AMERICA.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 61, 32–43.

Chowdhury, Prithak (2017) ""I am Desi": (Re)Claiming Racialized Narratives of Being Asian in White America," The Vermont Connection: Vol. 38 , Article 9. Available at:

De Mora, J. M. (1997). THE WESTERN VIEW OF HINDUISM : AN AGE-OLD MISTAKE. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 78(1/4), 1–12.

Lu, J. G., Nisbett, R. E., & Morris, M. W. (2020). Why East Asians but not South Asians are underrepresented in leadership positions in the United States. PNAS, 117 (9), 4590-4600.

Lucia, A. Hinduism in America. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Retrieved 4 Nov. 2021, from

Palmer, N. W. (2006). Negotiating Hindu Identity in an American Landscape. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 10(1), 96–108.

Park, L. S.-H. (2008). Continuing Significance of the Model Minority Myth: The Second Generation. Social Justice, 35(2 (112)), 134–144.

Souter, K., & Raja, I. (2008). Mothering Siblings: Diaspora, Desire and Identity in “American Born Confused Desi.” Narrative, 16(1), 16–28.



How to Cite

Dhinaker, C., & Haisler, J. (2022). Navigating Desi American Cultural Identity. Journal of Student Research, 11(2).



HS Research Articles