Vellathinai Dhahikunna Vezhambal (As a Bird Searches for the Rain Water) Social Perceptions of Indian American High School Youth Within Home, School, and Community Spaces

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Broadly, this dissertation study examines: 1) the role of space in influencing social perceptions of Malayalee, Indian American, Christian youth and the ways these spaces and perceptions influence these youth’s schooling experiences; and 2) the role of human agency in and larger structural influences on Indian American youth’s schooling experiences. This study is exploratory and qualitative in nature, drawing on interview data from 7 Indian American youth (5 girls and 2 boys) who attended high schools in a single district located in the mid-Atlantic, United States and archival documents, specifically the school district’s English and history standards. To make sense of the study data and findings, I used a conceptual framework composed of key concepts from intersectionality, structural racism, and spatiality. Three key conclusions emerged from the present study: 1) teachers’ and peers’ perceptions of participants influenced their schooling experiences; 2) participants’ assigned importance to the social aspects of school as much as academic aspects; and 3) participants experienced racial/ethnic bias in their interactions with teachers and learning materials (e.g. curricula) which also influenced their schooling experiences.