1. “Desi” is the Hindi word most commonly used amongst Indians in the Diaspora for people from South Asia or of South Asian origin.
2. In writing our paper as a performative text, we are drawing on recent trends in ethnographic writing that have focused on issues of “exploring various intersections, various blendings of genre and voices’ (Reed-Danahay, 1997, 3). The important issues have been those of providing alternate ways for ethnographic expression including those of “real fiction,” poetry, plays, life histories, personal narratives (Archetti, 1994; Benson, 1993; Gullestad, 1996; Lavi, et al, 1993). Theoretically the focus on writing is reflected in anthropology’s literary turn and the development of a postmodern ethnography (Atkinson, 1992; Fischer, 1994; Strathern, 1987;Van Maanen, 1995) with its concomitant focus on issues of native identity, postcolonialism and gender (Narayan, 1993; Chow, 1993; Brettell, 1997).
3. This paper is part of a three-year ethnographic study of South Asians in the U.S. South. The performance analyzed here was done at “India Night,” an annual celebration of Indian culture, arts and identity at a Southern U.S university. The celebration brings together three populations: international students from India, first generation Indian American students, and the local Indian community, consisting of older immigrants. Our study has focused on media use (films, websites, videos) across these populations and on the actual text of the annual program. We argue that India Night has become a site for the struggle to define cultural identity, authenticity and agency amongst the three populations. This paper examines some of the dynamics around masculinity, film, Diaspora and performance for the first generation Indian American students.
Fieldwork and interviews for this project have been conducted across all three communities. This paper uses transcripts from interviews with three students (the dancers) representing the first generation Indian American students, with one caveat. Two of the three students were born in India but their parents immigrated to the United States soon after. The two respondents in the first act are Indian international students. The cultural milieu these first generation Indian American students grew up in is of a specific Indian ethnicity called “Gujarati” (i.e. from the Indian State of Gujarat). They described their community as cohesive, tied by bonds of language, commensality, food and frequent cultural celebrations such as dances, religious gatherings and family events around birthdays, marriages, etc. All three of the dancers had been to India numerous times, and their understanding of India was more contextual than others of their generation who had only been there once or twice in their life. All three dancers anticipated marrying within their ethnic and religious community.
5. Bhaba, 1994, 7
6. Honest, likeable.
7. Lal, 1998, 60, 68.
8. Bullogh and Bullogh, 1993.
9. Hobsbawm, 1996, 44.
10. Virdi, 1997.
12. Interview with Amitab Bachchan, Cine Blitz, 2000, 27.
13. The authors translated the subtitles here.
14. The Red Fort is where India’s Prime Minister gives his annual Independence Day Speech.
15. Mishra, Jeffrey and Shoesmith, 1989.
16. Adda is a cheap drinking establishment frequented by the poor.
17. Raakhi is a ceremony establishing a fictive sibling kinship between a man and a woman. It is symbolized by a thread which a woman puts on a man’s wrist.
18. One of the perils of translation is judgment calls as to whether to provide a literal translation or a contextual one. In the case of this song, the word “anganee” translates literally as courtyard or even veranda, but the contextual reference clearly indicates personal space and so we use the word “home” in our translation. Similarly, in the second line of each verse the line “she has a purpose” is a contextual translation of the words “uska bhi bada naam hai,” which translates literally as “she too has a big name.”
19. This rhetorical strategy can be seen as a kind of analytic shorthand that signals the contexts of interpretation without laying out a predetermined path for all readings to follow. We follow Denzin’s (1997) rationale and Kohn (1998, 1994) example in assuming this strategy.
20. Harris, Torres and Allender, 1994, 704.
21. Kimel and Messner, 1992,9-10.
22. A popular dance from the Indian state of Punjab. It’s very popular amongst South Asians in the Diaspora.
23. Hammond and Jablow, 1987, 256.
24. Mcdowell, 2000, 201.
25. Garba and Raas are dances from the Indian State of Gujarat.
26. Coward, 1985, 13
27. Featherstone, 1991, 69.
28. Dyer, 1993, 275.
29. Jhumka can be roughly translated as style. Here it refers to what the respondent thinks is an overly sexual style of women dancers
31. Jump Cut reviewer’s comments
32. Flax, 1987, 632.
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About the authors
Anandam P. Kavoori is Associate Professor of Telecommunications at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Georgia, Athens, Ga 30605.
Christina A. Joseph is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Institutional Review Board, The University of Georgia, Athens, Ga 30605.