Experiencing globalization as South Asian teaching assistants: Navigating tensions in professional and social identities
This dissertation is a narrative analysis study examining how South Asian ITAs perceive and discuss cultural and linguistic situations as well as their interactions with their students in the classroom. Elements of the community of practice (CoP) approach were applied in investigating how identities are constructed by South Asian ITAs. Questions guiding this study were focused on the development of an ethnic identity, the tension of professional and social identities, and the linguistic capital of Indian English and how it influenced their experience. Data collection and analysis were led by the nexus analysis methodological guide and took place from August 2010 until February 2011 at a university in South Texas. Focus groups, individual interviews, and classroom observations were avenues for data collection, which occurred as data were triangulated and analyzed recursively.
Findings indicate that the ITAs are able to participate in a transnational existence while at an American university, allowing them to develop hybrid identity practices combining South Asian culture with American norms. Communication with family and participation in India was facilitated by the use of digital transnationalism. This allows the ITAs to maintain social relations in both India and the United States. Additionally, it was discovered that social practices influenced the professional reification of the ITA position. Through personal disclosures, social media outlets, and flexible positioning, the ITAs were able to develop a professional identity with which they were comfortable. Lastly, the positioning of Indian English became a large factor in how the ITAs perceived themselves as legitimate speakers. Through this study, it was discovered that investment in attaining proficiency was largely based on professional goals.