Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Duncan Faherty

Committee Members

Kandice Chuh

Eric Lott

Subject Categories

American Studies | Asian American Studies | Asian History | Cultural History | English Language and Literature | Ethnic Studies | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Literature in English, North America | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Other American Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social History | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies | United States History


International Students, Immigration, American Universities, Race, Colonialism, Nationalism


This dissertation examines the writings and experiences of five Indian international students in the United States during late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By drawing attention to these students, I attend to the ways in which notions of freedom, progress, and inclusivity associated with American higher education, and liberalism more generally, are related to structures of racialized and colonial dispossession in India. I build these arguments by reading archival sources such as university administrative records, student publications, personal and official correspondence, as well as understudied aesthetic works, such as memoirs, travel narratives, essays, doctoral dissertations, and public lectures. These historical materials show us how Indian international students oriented themselves amidst the shifting power relations between British colonialism, Indian anticolonial nationalism, and American higher education. I explore how the American university became a site that both encouraged Indian international students’ anticolonial political work, while simultaneously managing and curtailing their sense of political possibility. I discuss how some Indian international students were drawn to the emancipatory tendencies of liberalism that they encountered on campus, but they never pushed their analysis to probe the ways in which racism and colonialism created the material conditions that guaranteed rights, liberties, and economic prosperity only for some sections of society. Conducting a historical analysis of the Indian international student therefore reveals the American university to be a paradoxical space. On the one hand, we find ample evidence that suggests that international students were welcomed into the campus community and supported in their educational and political endeavors by their alma mater. On the other hand, the international student’s experiences also reveal how racism operated both within and outside the university. Furthermore, the international student draws attention towards how the larger context of British colonialism in India pushed students to attend American universities, and correspondingly, how the American exceptionalist nationalist ideology functioning on campuses pulled Indian students into their orbit of influence.