East Meets West—in the Northeast
The research I conducted through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) enabled me to experience ethnographic research in a small metropolitan area in a way that I could have never imagined. Recently back from a semester abroad, I was eager to explore new aspects of anthropology. By conducting research, I was able to see some of the real-life implications of what it means to be an anthropologist in the U.S.
I chose to examine how Indian and Pakistani immigrants are accommodated in Manchester because most ethnographic studies on these immigrants had focused primarily in areas of dense settlement, such as New York City. My ultimate goal was to contrast available data about Indian and Pakistani immigrant settlements in large cities—where an economically diverse population exists—to the situation in Manchester, New Hampshire, where these immigrants have begun to settle.
For nine weeks I went to Manchester on weekday afternoons and weekends, spending the majority of my time getting to know people at an Indian and Pakistani restaurant and a South Asian market. Developing friendships with the owners and employees of the restaurant was the most valuable part of the entire research process. I not only learned about something new, but I gained new friendships.
The focus of my research completely changed since the beginning of the project. At first I was worried that things were not happening exactly as I planned them. However, with the help of my faculty mentor, Prof. Nina Glick-Schiller, I learned that conducting participatory observations and reflecting on my time spent with them was the most important part of the research process. Whenever I spent time with people I would take notes afterward, reflecting on what I saw, heard, smelled, and tasted.
I have established a small network of connections in the Indian and Pakistani communities of Manchester, N.H., which is proving valuable in the fall of 2002, as I continue research for my senior thesis project. I have developed ethnographic research skills, which may, in fact, be more valuable than the raw data, particularly better personal and interpretive skills, which are essential components of ethnographic research.
The results of my study will provide data about the settlement of Indians and Pakistanis in Manchester and on how well Hinduism and Islam have become established in this setting. Considering the United State’s current tensions with the Middle East, I hope this research will eventually help people be more familiar with religions and cultures that are sometimes misunderstood.
--Jesse McEntee ‘03