Race, Religion, and Romance:

Immigrant Identity Making in

Intimate and Global Spaces

Who we date and who we marry provide an intimate window into not only how immigrants lay down their roots into their new country but also the extent to which their host society is open to accepting immigrants as their own. However, South Asian Muslim immigrants, who comprise Canada’s largest visible minority and the United States’ second largest Muslim immigrant group, may face particular challenges navigating marital integration in North America because of the intense stigma they face based both on their race and religion. Indeed, in Canada, South Asians are some of the least likely Canadians to marry outside of their faith group and ethnicity. Moreover, because premarital dating, gender-mixing, and interfaith/interracial unions are still taboo in many Muslim communities, these spaces for identity-making are often hidden from public eye, and consequently, overlooked in scholarly discourses.

 

Using a U.S.-Canada comparison, my next project examines the personal, social, political, and global factors that encourage and discourage Muslim South Asian immigrants from dating and marrying outside of their communities. With a diverse team of undergraduate and graduate students, this project seeks to conduct 160 interviews (80 in Canada; 80 in the U.S.) with five groups of people: South Asian Muslim college students and young professionals; their non-Muslim and non-South Asian peers; mixed couples in which one partner is South Asian Muslim; South Asian Muslim divorcees of former interracial/interfaith marriages; and South Asian Muslim parents with unmarried children.

 

An important feature of this project design is that it looks at both sides—the Muslim South Asian immigrants as well as their non-Muslim, non-South Asian peers—to provide an in-depth, holistic account of the intermarriage phenomena as experienced in everyday life before, during, and after it happens.