Asian Indian American students' expression of culture and identity construction through narrative writing




Iyengar, Kalpana Mukunda

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Literacy acquisition has been understood as acquiring reading and writing skills using textbooks through formal schooling. However, literacy can also be acquired through community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2008), funds of knowledge (Moll, 1998), and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1990). In order for teachers to be able to assist diverse students, the teachers must be provided with continued professional development. This qualitative study focused on one of the San Antonio Writing projects' community outreach literacy projects called the Kahani Project modeled after the Cuentos Project. Although there are two million Asian Indian Americans living in the US (US Census, 2010), their cultural practices are not well known in schools and higher educational institutions. In spite of the advantages of writing family oriented narratives, Asian Indian American students are not provided with opportunities to express about their cultural practices in writing. This study explored how Asian Indian American writers utilized their cultural funds of knowledge while writing narratives and thereby attempted to construct a bicultural identity. This study was an attempt to contribute to the existing bodies of literature about Asian Indian American students. This qualitative exploratory study was conducted in a major Southwest City in the United States. The participants included nine Asian Indian American students attending public and private schools in the US. The study data comprised of Asian Indian American students' artifacts (narratives), informal interviews, and the transcribed notes of the two external readers' interviews and comments. In order to identify different codes, themes, categories, and meta categories in the data, the study utilized Leiblich et al's (1998) holistic content analysis procedure. The data was stored in NVivo 10. The findings of this qualitative study revealed that Asian American Indian student writers expressed their concerns about writing open topics for writing assignments rather than assigned topics. They were also uncomfortable writing about culturally relevant materials, cultural capital, and community cultural wealth of the Asian Indian writers at school. The participants also expressed their interest and willingness to write about communal socialization and cultural tools of the Asian Indian people. The participants shared their process of constructing the relational and communal identities through the Trishanku World or the psychological third space in their lives that was missing at their schools. The bicultural identity construction through managing opposition and coping with alienation was also expressed in their narratives. The study findings may be beneficial for parents, teachers, curriculum designers, school districts, and other researchers including the writing project teacher consultant across the nation who are willing to address narrative writing for psychological growth and academic well being of students from diverse backgrounds in all of their communities. The study findings revealed the lack of inclusion of Asian Indian cultural education in classrooms and the inability of these students to cope with bullying and symbolic violence. These aspects must be addressed to empower diverse students. The three major contributions to literature through this study are--how Asian Indian American students used their funds of knowledge in their narratives, the strong connection between surface and deep cultures, and the creation of the third space called the Trishanku World.


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Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching