Journey to the United States: Exploring Precarity and Pathways to Migration among Keralan Migrants

Thu, April 8, 2021 2:00 PM at

MSU Sociology PhD student Praveena Lakshmanan will defend her dissertation proposal.

Journey to the United States: Exploring Precarity and Pathways to Migration among Keralan Migrants

Abstract. Migration scholars focusing on ethnic migration call for research that accounts for how specific migrant groups engage with the uncertainties and vulnerabilities of their experience along their migratory journeys (Abdi 2015, Kibria 2011, Gold 2001). Contemporary sociological research on Indian migration to the United States have predominately examined the social, cultural, and political lives of Indian migrants and their transnational connections. While this research is heavily centered around the Indian middle-class, it pays little attention to the experiences of working-class and economically precarious migrants, while downplaying regional and gendered differences in migrant experiences.

The proposed dissertation research fulfils the above gap by exploring how contemporary contextual conditions (regional and class based economic precarity, gendered interactions and power hierarchy with transnational social networks) are associated with multiple migration pathways to the United States. The goal is to demonstrate how migrant agency, not just economic conditions, often interplays and interacts to determine migration outcomes. Using primarily in depth interview methods with 45 Keralan migrants currently living or previously resided in Texas with a varied and often complicated experience with migration journey, the proposed research asks the following research questions:

  1. How do economically precarious Keralan migrants’ access and engage with different social networks throughout their migratory journey to the United States?
  2. How does variance in relationships between Keralan migrants and these network actors reproduce inequality based on gender, class, and caste/ethnicity throughout the migratory journey?
  3. How do Keralan migrants use these networks to enact agency throughout the migration journey to the United States?


Committee Members: Dr. Soma Chaudhuri and Dr. Stephanie Nawyn (Co-Chairs), Dr. Steve Gold, Dr. April Zeoli (School of Criminal justice)