America evolves as a nation through the changing faces of its citizens. And the concept of citizenship has evolved as the nation responds to prevailing needs and circumstances. The story of the early immigrants from India and their struggle for U.S. citizenship is one chapter in the history of how Americans have defined and redefined their attitudes toward the concept of citizenship and the definition of who is an American.
For a government, citizenship is an important tool with which to shape a nation’s form and content. For an individual, citizenship is a means to fulfill personal aspirations and goals within the context and protections of allegiance to the nation. But the basic question still remains, Who belongs?
Today, increasing levels of immigration and globalization raise more questions about the meaning and significance of citizenship:
How does the established citizenry determine the rights of newcomers? Why and when does citizenship matter? In a highly mobile society, does citizenship become more valuable because of the protection a state provides its citizens? Or does it become less important as human enterprise grows international in scope? Does involvement in home country issues affect traditional concepts of citizenship loyalties?
We invite you to consider these and other questions in the light of the historical experience of the early immigrants from India who fought for the right to become citizens of the United States so that they could live as full and equal participants in American life.
The Indo-American Heritage Museum gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following persons in the production of this gallery:
Harold Gould Visiting Scholar, Center for South Asian Studies, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
BruceLaBrack Cultural Anthropologist, Professor Emeritus, University of the Pacific, Stockton, California.
Karen Isaksen Leonard Historian, anthropologist, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine.
Inder Singh Chairman, Executive Committee, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin
CURATORIAL CONSULTANT Masum Momaya Independent Curator/Writer
STUDENT RESEARCH TEAM
Lakhpreet Gill Stanford University, Palo Alto, California Sravan Kannan University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois Ashveer Pal Singh University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
TECHNICAL CONSULTANT Nehal Shah
The Struggle for Citizenship was conceived, developed and written by Indo-American Heritage Museum Board members
Lakshmi Menon Padma Rangaswamy Dorothie Shah