Aashna Nilawar

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date



"The Myth of Meritocracy" delves into the consequences of the Indian caste system on immigration and naturalization in the United States during the 1910s to 1940s. It also examines the effects of the 1965 U.S. immigration reforms on post-Cold War era South Asian immigration. In addition to the challenges encountered by Asian immigrants in general, South Asian immigrants confronted distinct hurdles linked to their hereditary social class, which significantly influenced their access to American naturalization rights. To overcome racial limitations on naturalization in the early 20th century, South Asian immigrants contended that their caste, Aryan ancestry, and colonial subjecthood aligned them with the category of "free white persons" defined in U.S. naturalization law, advocating for a pathway to citizenship. Ultimately, these endeavors to assert their "whiteness" were unsuccessful.


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