Tag Archives: Hyphen

From Risk to Harm and from Harm to Suicide

by Guest Contributor Louise Tam, originally published at Hyphen Magazine

In September, I wrote a piece describing my perspective as a disabled woman of color and psychiatric survivor. I explored how race-specific self-killings are differentially represented by the media to demonstrate how public perceptions of suicide depend on social and political contexts. My intention was to de-sensationalize model minority suicide in order to draw attention to how particular non-white bodies are often presumed to be volatile and violent.

This month, I look more closely at clinical explanations of ethnic minority suicide and respond by citing current non-clinical and community-based anti-racist reflections on the significance of emotional pain and anger.

Before I proceed, I would like to draw attention to how the term suicide is invoked by the viewer rather than the subject of suicide: the neighbor who calls 911 rather than the person exhibiting suspicious behavior. This can have negative repercussions on the “allegedly suicidal” that we don’t often think about. In fact, daily we are surrounded by public campaigns that encourage us to report at-risk behavior with the intention of saving lives: we believe it is our civic duty to do so. This is especially true in communal living environments such as campus residences.

The “peril of help” arises in (1) how we, as the public, determine what is suspicious or at-risk behavior and (2) how our social infrastructure then deals with the people we “call out.” Behavior can be “cut out” of context, of an individual’s life history, when it does not make sense to onlookers, including family, friends, and employers. Behavior might not make sense and alarm us because an individual’s actions are inconsistent with social rules and, furthermore, associated with narratives of harm we are taught to recognize daily by institutions around us. For example cutting is strongly associated with suicide. Seen in the absence of context, most of us would be compelled to stop this action and probably call on professional expertise to intervene and solve what we identify as a threat. Continue reading

Mother Jones Falls Short with ‘My Summer at an Indian Call Center

by Guest Contributor Kirti Kamboj, originally published at Hyphen

Outsourced promo

Mother Jones recently published “My Summer at an Indian Call Center,” which looked at the other side of the “these people are stealing our jobs!” outsourcing scenario. It was written by Andrew Marantz, an American who spent a summer in India and took a training course for call center agents, and focused on his experiences during this training and his views of the industry. Some parts were interesting, such as the strange and amusing anecdotes from his cultural training bootcamp, and it provided a much needed counter to the idea that the current system of globalization brings greater happiness and prosperity to everyone.

Points like this were particularly insightful:

Call-center employees gain their financial independence at the risk of an identity crisis. A BPO salary is contingent on the worker’s ability to de-Indianize [16]: to adopt a Western name and accent and, to some extent, attitude. Aping Western culture has long been fashionable; in the call-center classroom, it’s company policy. Agents know that their jobs only exist because of the low value the world market ascribes to Indian labor. The more they embrace the logic of global capitalism, the more they must confront the notion that they are worth less.

But its critique was ultimately limited, full of over-generalizations, and at times contradictory. Below are four reasons I found it so, and why I would hesitate to recommend this article.

(1) Near the beginning of the piece, Marantz quotes a 2003 Guardian article which states: “The most marketable skill in India today is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else’s.” It’s factually correct that this is a marketable skill, but by labeling it the most marketable skill the article is overreaching. It also fails to make a distinction that few Indians overlook. Namely, that there’s very little money that a middle class urban Indian can earn by slipping into the identity of, say, a villager in Orissa, or a farmer in rural Nigeria. The marketable skill is the ability to slip into an affluent Westerner’s identity.

By itself, this is a small omission and overgeneralization, but there are similar ones throughout this article, forming a pattern indicative of a lack of awareness or concern for the underlying hierarchies that govern many aspects of a call center employee’s life, as well as a lack of nuance.

(2) The most interesting, as well as most questionable, parts of the article were those which talked about the cultural training call center agents are required to undergo. In this training, Marantz says,

trainees memorize colloquialisms and state capitals, study clips of Seinfeld and photos of Walmarts, and eat in cafeterias serving paneer burgers and pizza topped with lamb pepperoni. Trainers aim to impart something they call “international culture” — which is, of course, no culture at all, but a garbled hybrid of Indian and Western signifiers designed to be recognizable to everyone and familiar to no one.

While in this instance learning “international culture” is obviously corporate doublespeak for “If you sound too Indian, you’ll be fired,” to claim that there’s no international culture seems similar to the claim that white people have no culture, especially in its glossing over of underlying hierarchies. The point of this culture training, it must not be forgotten, is to give the Indians at these call centers names, accents, mannerisms, and cultural signifiers that help them to pass for Westerners, to circumvent the “protectionism” instincts of the callers. This isn’t a melding of two cultures into something no one is familiar with; it’s the attempted erasure of one to avoid instigating the anger and scorn of those from the other. Continue reading

Announcements – Hyphen Short Story Contest, RAMS Gala, Bowlathon for Abortion Funds


Hyphen Short Story Content – Deadline Extension

Are you an unpublished writer, waiting to be discovered? Think you have what it takes to win a national, pan-Asian American writing competition—the ONLY one of its kind? Here’s your shot at showing off your roots and writing.

Hyphen and The Asian American Writers’ Workshop proudly present the 2010 Asian American Short Story Contest.
Prize: $1,000, publication in Hyphen magazine and the honor of short story of the year.

Now in its third year, the 2010 Asian American Short Story Contest will name 10 finalists and one grand prize-winner who will win a cash prize of $1000 and have the winning story published in an upcoming issue of Hyphen.

Judges for the 2010 contests include renowned Asian American writers:

* Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh (Picador), and winner of the Whiting award, the Michener Copernicus Prize, the AAWW Lit Award and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize

* Jaed Coffin, the author of A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants (Da Capo Press).

Our first contest winner Preeta Samarasan was discovered based on her contest winning story. She went on to write the acclaimed novel Evening is the Whole Day (Houghton Mifflin), which was long-listed for the Orange Prize.

What will your story do for you?

For guidelines and more, visit Hyphen’s site.
Continue reading

Open Thread: Helping Magazines That Get It

giant robot 1
By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

In the wake of the Reggie Bush controversy and this month’s Vanity FAIL, it’s worth spreading the word that magazines like Giant Robot & Hyphen are still in need of aid in order to stay afloat. As Jessica Lum notes::

Many of the organizations that were started to reach out, broadcast, and appreciate the amazing work of Asians and Asian Americans (or Asian Canadians, Asian Brazilians, etc.) are struggling under the financial burdens of the economic environment, especially in the journalism and print media industry.

So, while encouraging you to help those magazines out, I ask: what culture mags – Asian or otherwise – are you reading these days? What should we be reading?

Disgrasian: Hyphen Cover Girls!

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Racialicious would also like to say congratulasians to our buddies at Disgrasian!


Yes, I’m aware that Olivia Munn is on the cover of Maxim. Looking good too. But whatever. Forget that. The real hottest ladies on the internet are currently rocking the cover of Hyphen. My pals Jen Wang and Diana Nguyen, the brainy and beautiful bloggers behind Disgrasian, are the cover gals of Hyphen’s “Trailblazing” issue.

I love it. Lots of good stuff inside too, including interesting features on Asian Americans serving in the Obama White House, to Asian Americans gaining visibility in the wine industry. Get your copy on newsstands, or better yet, subscribe to the magazine here at the discounted rate of $16 for 4 issues ($2 off).