Becoming South Asian in America

Bakirathi Mani

Bakirathi Mani explores how South Asians create new definitions of Asian American identity and community.

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Audio: [55 min 22 sec] | Download

"What does it mean to be South Asian today? How has immigration, transnational adoption, and 9/11 changed the ways in which South Asians identify as Americans?" Mani asks. "This talk uses contemporary digital videos and documentary films in order to explore how South Asians create new definitions of Asian American identity and community. "I discuss three films in this lecture that focus on three distinct South Asian immigrant groups: first-generation professionals who migrated in the 1960s and 1970s; Indian adoptees who were adopted by white American families in Minnesota the 1980s; and working-class Bangladeshi immigrants who arrived in New York in the 1990s. Whereas many professional immigrants (particularly women) feel that they must choose between being Indian or being American, I demonstrate how transnational adoptees begin to create a sense of solidarity with each other as Indians and as Americans. These films document the ways in which first and second-generation immigrants create imaginative relationships with their countries of 'origin' at the same time that they embody and produce racialized subjectivities as South Asians in the United States."