Finding Family and Self in India
Alan Roland is a counselor from New York City who arrived in India 35 years ago to learn how Westernization and modernization is impacting urban, educated youth.
Roland quickly realized that he had a lot to learn before he could find answers to his questions and he dove into a study of Indian society while he treated Indian patients and supervised other counselors. He dialoged with anthropologists, sociologists, poets, novelists, philosophers and teachers. He discovered that culture and social patterns shape the inner lives of people in more profound ways than he had ever imagined.
What Roland discovered is that his Indian patients had a significantly different idea of themselves than anything he encountered in Euro-American patients. He calls the Indian self a we-self, by which he means that the idea of the self that is common in India is integrated with the extended family. According to Roland, having a familial we-self has profound implications on how honor, loyalty, nurture and non-verbial communication are dealt with in contrast to his own Euro-American Society.
Roland returned to New York City where he works with Asian American patients. He observes two cultural selves in clients who were born in India and moved to America in childhood. One part of his clients live as a we-self with their families at home and another part of them adapts to a more assertive and individualistic self in American schools and work places.
In recent times, Roland observes Indians in New York who live in an Indian social context within America. Many of them have a home in India to which they often travel and some hope to move back to India. Roland calls these kinds of Indians in America transnationals rather than immigrants.
Roland tells many stories and insights from his experiences with Asian American patients in his book published by Oxford University Press titled, Journey to Foreign Selves: Asians and Asian Americans in a Global Era.
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