Me, Myself and I: Western Lifestyle Migrants in Search of Themselves in Varanasi, India

Mari Korpela


The article investigates Western lifestyle migrants in the city of Varanasi in northern India. Relying on interview material, the author first discusses how the Westerners distinguish themselves from “ordinary” people in their countries of origin. However, in addition to distinguishing themselves from ordinary Westerners, they also define themselves as fundamentally different from “the Indian other”, which becomes very evident in their interview talk. The author argues that the Westerners’ contacts with local Indian people in Varanasi are very limited and Indian people are merely granted the role of the insignificant “other” in the process of the Westerners defining their distinctive identities. The article thus shows that the Westerners define themselves as courageous, independent and active agents both against Indian and Western others. The Western lifestyle migrants in Varanasi also share a discourse of having found their true selves in India and have changed fundamentally during their time there. The author eventually argues that although the Westerners articulate their stay in India as a quest for a better life, eventually staying in India seems to become a trip to the self and for the self.


lifestyle migration; Otherness; Varanasi

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Published by SPREAD Corporation (Sustainable Programs for Reducing Educational and Avocational Disadvantages)