The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power

The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power

The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power

The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power

Synopsis

The Sun Never Sets enacts a shift in the orientation of the field of South Asian American studies. By focusing upon the lives, work, and activism of specific, often unacknowledged, migrant populations, the contributors present a more comprehensive vision of the South Asian presence in the United States. Tracking the changes in global power that have influenced the paths and experiences of migrants, from expatriate Indian maritime workers at the turn of the century, to Indian nurses during the Cold War, to post-9/11 detainees and deportees caught in the cross fire of the "War on Terror," these essays reveal how the South Asian diaspora has been shaped by the contours of U.S. imperialism. Driven by a shared sense of responsibility among the contributing scholars to alter the profile of South Asian migrants in the American public imagination, the essays address the key issues that impact these migrants in the U.S., on the subcontinent, and in circuits of the transnational economy. Vivek Bald is Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America. Miabi Chatterji received her PhD from New York University in American Studies. She serves on the Board of Directors of the RESIST Foundation and works with non-profit organizations such as NYUFASP, a group of NYU faculty working for shared governance at their institution. Sujani Reddy is Five College Assistant Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies in the Department of American Studies at Amherst College. Manu Vimalassery is Assistant Professor of History at Texas Tech University.

Excerpt

Vivek Bald, Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy, and Manu Vimalassery

In her painting Vanwyck Blvd (2005), visual artist Asma Ahmed Shikoh subtly reworks the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s iconic subway map. From afar, viewers might recognize the muted blue, gray, and yellow representation of the city, with boldly colored subway lines coursing like arteries through Manhattan and connecting it to the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Stepping closer, they will find that every piece of text across the five boroughs, including placenames, subway stops, and the map’s key, has been rendered into Urdu, connecting this image as much to Pakistan and Northern India as to New York. New York City has been claimed as part of a larger geography—of people, of language, of lives—that stretches outward from the South Asian subcontinent, across decades and across oceans. We begin with this painting because it enacts the kind of intervention that this collection sets out to make, as a countermapping, as a tool with which to read and navigate the scholarship, politics, and subjectivities that have come to constitute the South Asian diaspora in an age of U.S. power.

Maps have played a central role in the imperial expansions that have displaced hundreds of thousands of South Asians over the past two centuries and set them in motion across the globe. For centuries, maps fed the imagining of imperial power as it spread out from continental Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and they continue to function as tools of imperial perception and control. in military strategy sessions, corporate boardrooms, and broadcast news studios, maps mark out the spaces of U.S. geographic knowledge and power, tracing the trajectories of military “surges,” outlining proposed paths for natural gas pipelines, or introducing “new” sites of crisis and concern to the U.S. population, such as Kandahar, Bagram, Kabul, or Guantánamo. Like the navigational charts of explorers and slave-ship . . .

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