Decoupling Religion and Ethnicity: Second-Generation Indian American Christians

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19 Scopus citations


Classic assimilation theory was based on the assumption of individualistic adaptation, with immigrants and their children expected to shed their ethnic identities to become Americans. In the sphere of religion, however, they could maintain their communitarian traditions through American denominations. In contemporary society, multiculturalism, spiritual seeking, and postdenominationalism have reversed this paradigm. First- and second-generation immigrants integrate by remaining ethnic and group-identified, but religion is viewed as a personal quest. This paper examines how this paradigm shift affects the ethnic and religious behavior of second-generation Americans. It is based on research among Malankara Syrian Christians belonging to an ancient South Indian community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-468
Number of pages22
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Ethnic churches
  • Immigrant integration
  • Nondenominational evangelicalism
  • Second-generation Americans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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