Identity Dub: The Paradoxes of an Indian American Youth Subculture (New York Mix)

Essay Excerpt

In this article, I examine the emergence of a second-generation Indian American youth subculture that revolves mainly around the use of two commodities, music and fashion, as displayed and performedat parties in Manhattan. My interest is in linking an analysis of these elements of second-generation popular culture to the specific identity questions that loom large for second-generation Indian Americans and in locating these two dimensions in particular historical and cultural contexts. The article draws on my interviews with Indian American college students in Manhattan who have grown up in the United States and come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, from lower middle to uppermiddle class. The subculture that has sprung up around Indian music remix includes participants whose families originate from other countries of the subcontinent, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, but I dwell here on Indian American youth because my research has focused on their experiences in particular and because issues of ethnic identity play out in specific ways for different national and religious, not to mention regional, groups; at the same time, I also note the pan-ethnic character of these events when relevant. (Maira, 30)

About the Author

Sunaina Maira is Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in New York City and co-editor of Youthscapes: The Popular, the National, the Global and Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America, which won the American Book Award in 1997. Her new book, Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire After 9/11(Duke University Press), is on South Asian Muslim immigrant youth in the U.S. and issues of citizenship and empire after 9/11. Maira was one of the founding organizers of Youth Solidarity Summer, a program for young activists of South Asian descent, and the South Asian Committee on Human Rights (SACH), that focused on post-9/11 civil and immigrant rights issues in the Boston area. She has also worked with various community and immigrant rights groups in the Bay Area.

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