Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Munoz, Kristine L

First Committee Member

Duck, Steve

Second Committee Member

Havens, Timothy

Third Committee Member

Khandelwal, Meena R

Fourth Committee Member

Graham, Laura R


In this ethnographic study, I sought to understand the diasporic lives of Afghan Hindus by studying how they discursively constructed their migration and settlement in Germany. By directing attention to their ways of speaking about migration I understood the importance of community and family to the Afghan Hindu way of life, and how the cultural premises of homeland an integral part of their relationships in the diaspora. Speech codes theory is the primary theoretical framework for this ethnographic study.

Research was conducted over four separate visits to Germany lasting from four to ten weeks, beginning in summer of 2005 and ending in December 2008, proceeding in phases. Primary methods used were, participation observation, and in-depth interviews. Sites of research included Afghan Hindu temples and family events.

The main indigenous term used to describe migration was bikharna, which captured spatial dispersal, relational fragmentation, and loss of traditions. The Afghan Hindu meaning of community was premised on physical proximity and relational connection among Afghan Hindus.

The changing meaning of family from the multi-member, multi-generational household of Afghanistan to Western ideas of the nuclear family also figured prominently in ways of speaking about migration. Cultural premises of the homeland continued to inform life in Germany, but were also increasingly being challenged by lifestyle choices of some Afghan Hindus.

The temple in Afghan Hindu diasporic lives emerged as an important place, in discursive constructions of community. What was once a place of worship in the homeland was constructed in the diaspora as a place that could bring the fragmented community together. However, the temple was also contested space, as different groups of people within the speech community had different perspectives on its importance in Afghan Hindu lives.

This study has implications for the study of culture, communication and relationships in the context of diaspora. Ethnography of communication offers an ideal theoretical framework in which to understand diasporic experiences, by examining the underlying rules and premises of everyday lives of diasporic people. As a case study of a refugee diaspora, this study also has implications for scholarship on South Asian diasporas.


culture, diaspora, ethnography of communication, migration, refugee, South Asian


ix, 184 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 175-184).


Copyright 2011 Chitra Venkatesh Akkoor

Included in

Communication Commons