Border crossings and imagined-nations
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Globalization in its most rudimentary form speaks towards a singular world society. However, with several forms of patriarchal and colonial discourses drawing borders, both physical and figurative, around nations and their people, the current globalized world is anything but a singular world society. Informed by de/colonizing epistemologies, this transnational feminist qualitative case study investigates the material conditions produced by the globalized ordering of the world and its people in the context of higher education in the U.S. The purpose of this research was to examine how two female Indian graduate students new to the U.S. negotiated their initial experiences while beginning their graduate education. The researcher engaged in six months of fieldwork, using participant observations, conversational interviews, and photo- and object-elicitations. Implementing transnational feminist readings, the findings highlight the changing concepts of “home” through which each participant authored her self-hood in terms of being an Indian outside of India and being part of an under-represented group in the U.S. Moreover, the participants expressed needs to belong to communities of practices where the distinctions between newcomer and oldtimers were blurred. With shifting privileges, participants shuttled between multiple subject positions informed by gendered, national, and colonizing discourses. Analyzing the movements between multiple subject positions, this study shows the participants’ strategic accommodations and resistances, as well as their adherence to and rejection of previously known and newly discovered subject positions. The substantive implications of this study highlight the need for addressing inequalities faced everyday by international and under-represented students both inside and outside the classrooms of higher education in the U.S. Implications for practice call for internationalizing curriculum and instruction and developing multi-pronged national and global coalitions to learn why and how difference matters based on multiple histories, politics, and knowledges. Methodologically, this study explores the limits and possibilities of de/colonizing methodologies implemented by an Indian researcher in Western academia. Using and extending Goffman’s (1997) front- and back-stage metaphor, data transformation involved disrupting binaries, questioning the researcher’s presumptive agency, documenting the contradictions/tensions in findings, and highlighting messy performative acts of the participants’ negotiations. This study reinforces feminist discourses about the utility of conversational interviews, and blurs the boundaries between the researcher and the researched. Furthermore, this study emphasizes the need to demonstrate participants’ negotiations in their contradictory ways, incorporating several data sources to render a multidimensional re-presentation of the participants. Consequently, this study creates spaces for dialoguing about implementing de/colonizing methods by insider/outsider researchers in Western academia, thereby highlighting the need to further develop alternate de/colonizing qualitative methodologies to capture multiple realities of the participants’ lives.