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The Sun Never Sets

South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power

Vivek Bald

Publication Year: 2013

The Sun Never Sets collects the work of a generation of scholars who are enacting a shift in the orientation of the field of South Asian American studies which has, until recently, largely centered on literary and cultural analyses of an affluent immigrant population. The contributors focus instead on the histories and political economy of South Asian migration to the U.S.—and upon the lives, work, and activism of specific, often unacknowledged, migrant populations—presenting a more comprehensive vision of the South Asian presence in the United States.
Tracking the shifts 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 crossfire 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, they address the key issues that impact these migrants in the U.S., on the subcontinent, and in circuits of the transnational economy.  Taken together, these essays provide tools with which to understand the contemporary political and economic conjuncture and the place of South Asian migrants within it.
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.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

This book has its roots within the American Studies Program in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. The editors would like to thank the community of students, scholars, and activists there, as well as the many other people who have nourished and guided the project. ...

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pp. 1-22

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 ...

Part I. Overlapping Empires

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1. Intimate Dependency, Race, and Trans-Imperial Migration

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pp. 25-49

In 1907, seventeen-year-old Jawala Singh left his bride to the care of his father and uncle’s joint household and traveled by rail with his cousin Punu Singh from his village in Punjab to Calcutta.1 In Calcutta, Jawala and Punu booked passage and set sail for Hong Kong, sidestepping U.S. consular agents, ...

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2. Repressing the “Hindu Menace”: Race, Anarchy, and Indian Anticolonialism

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pp. 50-74

When immigration inspectors in San Francisco arrested the prominent Indian radical Har Dayal on March 25, 1914, as an “undesirable alien” whose alleged adherence to anarchist doctrines meant that he was in the United States in violation of immigration laws, Dayal promptly stated that his arrest was not an “immigration case” but a “political question.” ...

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3. Desertion and Sedition: Indian Seamen, Onshore Labor, and Expatriate Radicalism in New York and Detroit, 1914–1930

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pp. 75-102

Over the summer months of 1927, the New York–based magazine Asia published a three-part autobiographical essay by the expatriate Indian nationalist Sailendranath Ghose. Ghose was well known to many American readers by this time. A decade earlier, his name had been splashed across U.S. newspapers ...

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4. “The Hidden Hand”: Remapping Indian Nurse Immigration to the United States

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pp. 103-124

These are the impassioned words of Kumari Lakshmi Devi, the TNAI’s first general secretary of Indian origin and the editor of its signature publication, the Nursing Journal of India. Devi addresses herself here to Virginia Arnold, assistant director for medical education at the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). ...

Part II. From Imperialism to Free-Market Fundamentalism: Changing Forms of Migration and Work

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5. Putting “the Family” to Work: Managerial Discourses of Control in the Immigrant Service Sector

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pp. 127-155

One blustery December evening in 2007, I went to a small Indian restaurant in Manhattan’s “Curry Hill” neighborhood. This small neighborhood centered around Lexington Avenue is home to South Asian restaurants, grocery stores, clothing shops, and other immigrant-oriented businesses. ...

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6. Looking Home: Gender, Work, and the Domestic in Theorizations of the South Asian Diaspora

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pp. 156-175

After a general meeting at the Worker’s Awaaz office, Bala, a live-in domestic worker, approached Mona, a young lawyer who specialized in U.S. immigration law, and excitedly announced, “Meine LIFE Act ki bari mein abhi kuch soona hai” (I just heard about the LIFE Act). ...

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7 India’s Global and Internal Labor Migration and Resistance: A Case Study of Hyderabad

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pp. 176-202

On September 29, 2005, Indian unions waged a general strike to protest a national government plan to privatize airline, railroad, and banking industries. The strike was a blow to foreign and domestic investors who had been pushing the Congress Party–Left Front coalition government to privatize India’s transportation network. ...

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8. Water for Life, Not for Coca-Cola: Transnational Systems of Capital and Activism

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pp. 203-228

Over the last decade, several rural communities around Coca-Cola plants exploded in protest against the company’s exploitation of groundwater in the production of bottled drinks amid a growing national crisis of water scarcity. As demonstrated in the vibrant ongoing struggle in Mehndiganj, Uttar Pradesh, ...

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9. When an Interpreter Could Not Be Found

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pp. 229-248

The Visible Collective was a coalition of artists, educators, and legal activists exploring contested migrant identities, including religion as an externally imposed, imperfect proxy for ethnicity, within the context of post-2001 security panic. The collective’s first projects (Casual Fresh American Style and Nahnu Wahaad, but really are we one?) ...

Part III. Geographies of Migration, Settlement, and Self

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10. Intertwined Violence: Implications of State Responses to Domestic Violence in South Asian Immigrant Communities

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pp. 251-273

Over the past twenty-five years, South Asian communities in the United States have responded to the issue of domestic violence. Manavi, the first SAWO in the United States to explicitly grapple with gender-based violence against South Asian women,2 was founded in 1985. ...

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11. Who’s Your Daddy? Queer Diasporic Framings of the Region

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pp. 274-300

This essay is part of an ongoing project of thinking through the uses of the region in producing new forms of queer scholarship. As such it is broadly concerned with the relation between queer studies, diaspora studies, and area studies; I explore the possibilities for a comparative queer studies project that is routed and rooted in and through each of these fields. ...

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12. Awaiting the Twelfth Imam in the United States: South Asian Shia Immigrants and the Fragmented American Dream

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pp. 301-324

On September 11, 2007, the phone in our house rang too early to bear any good news. On the line was Kulsoom, the daughter of Kazim Bhai and Batool Aapa,1 friends from Jersey City. Apparently, as they had slept in their illegally sublet basement, their landlord had been awakened by members of the Department of Homeland Security, ...

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13. Tracing the Muslim Body: Race, U.S. Deportation, and Pakistani Return Migration

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pp. 325-349

After September 11, 2001, New York City became a different place. There was tragedy and sorrow in the air, but also fear and intimidation. Spreading with the swiftness of wildfire, a reign of domestic terror that targeted Muslim Americans and those who appeared Muslim inaugurated a twenty-first-century racial order. ...

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14. Antecedents of Imperial Incarceration: Fort Marion to Guantánamo

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pp. 350-374

Three months after invading Afghanistan, the United States opened a prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where it would eventually imprison about 550 men arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan under pretext of association with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.1 Too often, the architecture of the “War on Terror” has been described as “unprecedented,” ...

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pp. 375-380

On a snowy evening in December 1994, I got some good news. My PhD done, I was working as a community organizer at Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) in Providence, Rhode Island. It was fantastic work, giving me an opportunity to join the contingent classes of late twentieth-century America in some of our fiercest fights. ...


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pp. 381-392

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About the Contributors

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pp. 393-396

Vivek Bald is an associate professor of writing and digital media in the program in Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (Harvard University Press, 2013) and the director of three documentary films: ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814786451
E-ISBN-10: 081478643X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814786437
Print-ISBN-10: 081478643X

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2013