“Being Indian” in the City of Oxford

Author Name

Shahana Purveen

Author Address

Ph.D Scholar Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai [email protected]


Diversity, Ethnicity, Identity, Indian, Migrants.


Oxford hosts considerable numbers of migrants. The 2001 Census showed that 28% of Oxford’s population was born outside the UK the majority of them from Poland, USA, Germany, India and Pakistan. Among these countries as reported in Labour Market Statistics 2011, 2184 Indian migrants are living in Oxford and quite visible in various spaces of the city. The most obvious groups are the students and staff associated with the university. Besides, migrants are also employed in different sectors like tourism, construction and hospitality.

India is known for its vast diversity based on languages, religions, castes, regions etc. Meanwhile in India, religious intolerances, regional bifurcation, gender insensitivity, communal hatred etc., widen the gap between diverse Indian society. But it is assumed that, cross boarder migration may reduce the differences existing between different ethnic groups in India and move towards a holistic identity as “Indian”.  With this conceptual idea, this study tried to explore whether and how ‘Indians’ become ‘Indian’ living in Oxford. It examined how axes of difference change when they are in abroad, and whether they find commonality on account of being identified as ‘Indian’. To do this the study has used interview and observation methods at two sites: a beauty salon and in a restaurant in central Oxford. The study examined how migrants of Indian citizenship understand their Indian-ness in the context of being a migrant worker in Oxford.


International Conference on "Global Migration: Rethinking Skills, Knowledge and Culture"
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