Desi Webs: South Asian America, Online Cultures, and the Politics of Race [Conference Notes]

by Latoya Peterson

These are the notes for “ Desi Webs: South Asian America, Online Cultures, and the Politics of Race.” The notes are from a paper by Madhavi Mallapragada, presented at the Texas A & M University Race and Ethnic Studies Institute’s Symposium exploring Race, Ethnicity and (New) Media.

  • Resist identifying South Asians as a knowable identity
  • Media produced by SA as well as media cultures that speak to them are major influences in web 2.0
  • Categorizes are informed by transnational sensibilities
  • What is the “Indian” being imagined in the construction of Indian American?
    • How is the web mobilized around categorizes and what are the politics around these identities.
  • Focusing on the term “Desi”
    • Derived from “desh” which means homeland
    • Term of self and community identification
    • 2nd and 3rd gen youth often collectively identify as desi
    • While desi is a pan-South asian term, it often means Indian
  • She points to the popular website desihits.com
    • Bicultural remixes uniquely reflect the reality of people
    • Overwhelmingly focused on bollywood
    • Centrality of Indian pop culture and politics
  • Mallapragada plays the video “You Are Not an Indian
    • In this video titled, “You are not an Indian,” a young male addresses viewers who like him are neither just American nor Indian but desi. Wearing a t-shirt with the word “desi” written prominently in Hindi across it, the young man points out that desis are not South Asians but of South Asia. People of South Asian origin in the United States commonly refer to each other as Desi. The term means “from the homeland” and simultaneously invokes one’s identity as South Asian but also as being “outside South Asia”. As the young man reminds his viewers, the difference is key. Being desi implies being critically engaged with the “realities” of India rather than uncritically celebrating the hype surrounding its contemporary global image as high-tech nation.
    • Video is important as it displays the process of reasserting identity against a current narrative – of reclaimation, of identification
    • The idea of desi is undergoing a renovation in South Asian community spaces
  • Desi is being articulated as brown racialized identity asserted against the American nation state
  • Online activism:Desis Rising Up and Moving DrumNation.org
    • Immigration justice program
    • Know your rights workshops to counter ICE raids
    • Registration requests by US led to mass deportation
  • Mallapragada played a segment from “Rising Up: The Alams
    • As part of the Homeland security measures, immigrant men from 25, mostly Muslim countries were required to enroll in a Special Registration program. The result: no evidence of terror, but some 13,000 people are now being deported mostly for expired visas. The Alams were among the many families who believed that voluntarily participating in the Special Registration would show their loyalty. Instead, they face the prospect of breaking up their family, despite a decade of hard work and the raising of two children. Working with DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), the Queens South Asian activist group, the Alams have become activists, organizing to fight for their right to stay.

    • Asked men and boys of different nationalities to register
    • Portrayed as helping the government, being patriotic
    • 82,000 people registered from targeted countries
    • 13,000 put in deportation proceedings
  • To be Desi is also to be marked as a deviant body, wanted for labor, denied basic rights of citizens
  • DRUM highlights working class, youth, and women power
  • Mallapragada makes a special point near the end of her presentation: Anti black racism is more an assertion of white position and identity; an embrace that serves to distance desis from blackness. DRUM works to articulate a brown identity, separate and distinct from the binary at play.

  • (Image Credit: drumnation.org)

    About This Blog

    Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

    Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

    The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

    Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.

    Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.

    Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.

    Follow Us on Twitter!

    Support Racialicious

    The Octavia Butler Book Club

    The Octavia Butler Book Club
    (Click the book for the latest conversation)

    Recent Comments

    Feminism for Real – Jessica, Latoya, Andrea

    Feminism for Real

    Yes Means Yes – Latoya

    Yes Means Yes

    Sex Ed and Youth – Jessica

    Youth and Sexual Health

    OMLN

    Online Media Legal Network

    Recent Posts

    Support Racialicious

    Older Archives

    Tags

    Written by: