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

By Ahmed Afzal | Go to book overview

2
“A Dream Come True”
Shia Ismaili Experiences in Corporate America

In the winter of 2001, a financial scandal emanating from Houston exploded onto the international scene. Enron Corporation, one of the largest multinational energy, commodities, and services companies based in Houston, had become embroiled in a financial scandal centered on unprecedented levels of corporate corruption, greed, and mismanagement of funds and appropriations.1 Enron filed for Chapter 11 protection, sued rival Dynegy Inc. for $10 billion, and initiated widespread layoffs that significantly impacted its 7,500 employees in Houston (Bradley 2009a). Within a year, Enron’s twelve remaining core assets, natural gas pipelines, and electric utilities were auctioned (Fox 2003). Enron’s rapid fall and eventual bankruptcy challenged mythologies of unbridled freedom of opportunity and success in America’s neoliberal capitalist economy.2 Enron’s collapse also tested conventional wisdom about the vitality of Houston’s energy sector.3 As I discussed in chapter 1, Houston’s economy, driven by a concentration of the oil and gas sectors, had shown remarkable resilience and longevity, including recovery following the recession during the 1980s, in large part because of the presence of energy giants such as Enron.

The collapse of Enron found scarcely any interlocutors in Houston’s South Asian civic and cultural organizations, Pakistani and Indian radio programs, and Urdu- and English-language Pakistani newspapers. I found that I had to listen very hard for commentary or even a passing reference on the topic in the South Asian diasporic public sphere. A Pakistani radio program that specializes in replays of Pakistani and Indian pop music and soundtracks of current Indian movies provided one such fleeting moment. A listener had called in to request

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