Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Prema Kurien


Development, Indian Americans, Non-Profits, Philanthropy, Transnational Studies, Volunteerism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The role that diasporas play in development has received focus from academic scholars, policy planners, and politicians in developing countries, especially within the context of globalization and cross-border flows of human capital. India has drawn a lot of attention for these issues because of the migration of highly skilled, highly educated migrants. This dissertation focuses on the work of volunteers and philanthropic voluntary organizations in the Indian American community supporting development-related issues in India. Additionally, because of the unique landscape of Indian American organizations, I will also look at differences between religious and secular organizations. This dissertation answers the following questions:

• How do the secular or religious dynamics at play in India and the diaspora shape ideologies of development espoused by these organizations? How does this reflect the politics at home and abroad?

• How do individuals in these organizations understand their work in the organization and its relation to development and social issues in the homeland?

• Given the unique character of these organizations, as compared to other ethnic organizations, what is the particular space for belonging that is created in these organizations? And how are members socialized to the functions of a non-profit organization?

Using a Grounded Theory framework, this study utilizes multiple dates sources, incorporating evidence from interviews, archival and online-based documents for the organizations, emails on organizational listservs, and participant-observation at organizational meetings and events. As this research will show, these organizations serve other latent functions besides serving as a channel for funds.


Open Access