Frontier Heritage Migrants Finding Home in Globalising India

Author Name

Dr. Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

Author Address

Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India Research Associate, Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa [email protected]


global ethnic economy, frontier heritage migrants, diaspora and transnationalism, cultural globalisation


This paper draws on interview data from an ongoing research project on middle-class professionals who have moved to contemporary India from Canada, the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.  I call these people frontier migrants because frontier migration is defined as the move from a more “developed” economy to one that is still “developing.”  Frontier migrants from “First World” countries consist of all races/ethnicities but a significant proportion of those who are moving to India are frontier heritage migrants – those of Indian descent born and/or raised in the West.

Like South Africa and China, India is receiving increasingly visible numbers of frontier heritage migrants who are now moving to India which they define as their ancestral ethnic homeland even though they were not raised in the subcontinent.

Why are frontier heritage migrants moving to post-liberalization India?  More importantly, where do they work and live and how do they navigate issues of identity, language and creating a feeling of belonging in their new homes?  Does India’s rapidly globalizing urban landscape with its “global” cultural time zones like the mall and Starbucks cafes help them in settling down?  How do they perceive the labour market and the global economy?

In the first phase of this research, frontier heritage migrants “returning” to Africa and Asia demonstrated a highly-developed comparative framework, analyzing economic opportunity in relationship to race and ethnicity and comparing the sending and receiving countries.  In other words, they are making their migration choices in relationship to what they perceive is the global ethnic economy.

Drawing on preliminary data analysis from interviews conducted with frontier heritage migrants in Delhi and Mumbai in 2016, I attempt to explore some of the issues.


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