Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

Synopsis

Lone Star Muslims offers an engaging and insightful look at contemporary Muslim American life in Texas. It illuminates the dynamics of the Pakistani Muslim community in Houston, a city with one of the largest Muslim populations in the south and southwestern United States. Drawing on interviews and participant observation at radio stations, festivals, and ethnic businesses, the volume explores everyday Muslim lives at the intersection of race, class, profession, gender, sexuality, and religious sectarian affiliation to demonstrate the complexity of the South Asian experience. Importantly, the volume incorporates narratives of gay Muslim American men of Pakistani descent, countering the presumed heteronormativity evident in most of the social science scholarship on Muslim Americans and revealing deeply felt affiliations to Islam through ritual and practice. It also includes narratives of members of the highly skilled Shia Ismaili Muslim labor force employed in corporate America, of Pakistani ethnic entrepreneurs, the working class and the working poor employed in Pakistani ethnic businesses, of community activists, and of radio program hosts. Decentering dominant framings that flatten understandings of transnational Islam and Muslim Americans, such as "terrorist" on the one hand, and "model minority" on the other, Lone Star Muslims offers a glimpse into a variety of lived experiences. It shows how specificities of class, Islamic sectarian affiliation, citizenship status, gender, and sexuality shape transnational identities and mediate racism, marginalities, and abjection.

Excerpt

I had been in Houston for less than a week when I realized the difficulty in figuring out where cultural life took place for the interlocutors for my research: Pakistani Americans and Pakistani immigrants. Like many new immigrants in Houston, Pakistanis reside throughout Greater Houston. Even in the sections of southwest Houston along Hillcroft Avenue, Harwin Drive, and Bissonnet Street where Pakistani businesses and residential enclaves predominate, Pakistanis are a part of an ethnically and racially diverse landscape that also includes, among others, Afghani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Ecuadorian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Nigerian, Palestinian, and Vietnamese businesses and residential communities. During this initial period of research, I could not discern a recognizable South Asian ethnic center that would not only anchor my research but also provide me with a sense of ethnic rootedness and belonging in an as yet unfamiliar city.

On one of my first exploratory visits, when I was wondering how, in a city as vast and populous as Houston, I would ever locate Pakistani interlocutors, I got into a cab to explore Hillcroft Avenue. The cab driver turned out to be a middle-aged Pakistani man named Wasim. As I learned during the ride, he had relocated with his family from New York City to Houston a few years earlier. “I wanted to be closer to my brother who lives here,” he told me. “Besides, it’s tough to raise a family in New York — life is so fast there. Houston is better that way.”

While we continued our conversation, Wasim headed south on Hillcroft Avenue. I looked out the window and saw storefronts advertising Middle Eastern businesses in English and Arabic. Passing Harwin Drive, Arabic-language storefronts are replaced by South Asian and Latino businesses with storefronts in Urdu, Hindi, and Spanish. The blazing late summer sun and the oppressive humidity gave sidewalks . . .

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