A Feminist-poststructuralist Investigation of the Experiences of Indian Adults in Interethnic Romantic Relationships in New Zealand

Prakash, Ashleigh Shalini
Scherman, Rhoda
Paterson, Janis
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This inquiry investigated the problematisation of interethnic intimacy in the New Zealand Indian population. In order to comprehensively explore this topic, this inquiry synthesised two disparate bodies of literature. It adopted a Hindu-Indian cultural perspective to illuminate issues surrounding love, sexuality, and partner selection, and integrated it with existing Western research on interethnic intimacy.

Both bodies of work are significant to consider in their own right. Scholarly attention has been given to the experiences and challenges faced by Indian immigrants in Western countries, especially where it concerns family life and adjustment to Western social norms. However, little research addresses Indian attitudes towards love, sexuality, and romantic relationships, an area which has conventionally been characterised by silence in immigrant Indian families. On the other hand, interethnic relationships have conventionally been referred to in the literature as a measure of relations between ethnic groups. However, they also violate normative endogamous partner selection. The repercussions of this non-normativity are profound for interethnic couples, as they frequently experience opposition from those around them. Interethnic relationships seem to be particularly challenging for Indian society. Thus, this thesis analyses the problematisation of interethnic intimacy using Indian understandings of partner selection.

This inquiry employed a feminist-poststructuralist paradigm and was divided into two studies. Study 1 examined the attitudes held by Indian adults in New Zealand towards partner selection. Data was collected using interviews and focus groups with Indian adults between the ages of 21 and 65 in Auckland. In Study 2, Indian adults in New Zealand over the age of 21 who were in heterosexual, interethnic romantic relationships were recruited. Data was collected through reflexive photography and semi-structured interviews. All data was analysed using discourse analysis. Findings indicated the changing nature of Indian culture in New Zealand. Young Indian adults endorsed liberal approaches to love, sexuality, and partner selection, indicating changes in values about dating, interethnic relationships, and premarital cohabitation. However, reticence towards interethnic relationships persisted in varying degrees. Indian adults in interethnic relationships experienced challenges with: familial relationships; cultural integration; identity; and racial microaggressions, which rendered them vulnerable compared to Indian co-ethnic couples. These findings have far-reaching implications for New Zealand’s Indian population, as well as for health practitioners and researchers.

Indian New Zealanders , Intercultural relationships , Intermarriage , Marriage and sexuality discourses , Cross-cultural research , Feminist-poststructuralism , Reflexive photography
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