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Saris, spouses, and software: Gender and assimilation among South Indian high -tech and homemaker immigrants in Portland, Oregon

Karen S Straight, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is concerned with the experiences of South Indian male and female immigrants in the Portland. Oregon area, where some—but not all—of the sample has been employed in high-technology. Twenty South Indian high-tech men, 18 South Indian high-tech women, and 20 South Indian homemakers were interviewed to explore the effect of employment on gender role ideology and assimilation. The sample was further confined to South Indian Hindus who have lived in the U.S. between four and 20 years, and are married (but not to each other). The stories of South Indian men and women shed light on the consequences for assimilation of ‘where you start’ in terms of traditional vs. modern values, as well as the consequences of being male or female. Homemakers and men married to homemakers experience the greatest change in comparison with dual professional high-tech couples in terms of gender roles, behavior, and ideology. This is brought about by a transition from a relatively more conservative and restrictive environment into a more open and less restrictive environment. The change is less dramatic for high-tech couples, as their ideas and behaviors in India were more similar to the ideas and behaviors that govern their world today. This research v indicates that immigration brings structural changes in one's environment—greater independence, autonomy, and isolation. The structural changes lead to cultural changes—increased liberalism in regard to gender roles and relations. The significance of these changes and the implications for gender roles, values, and behaviors, is negotiated within the family. Viewing the family as a site of struggle as well as a source of cultural maintenance, allows one to see how gender roles and relations are negotiated over time in the new cultural milieu.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Straight, Karen S, "Saris, spouses, and software: Gender and assimilation among South Indian high -tech and homemaker immigrants in Portland, Oregon" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3078722.