Political Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances
Publication Year: 2013
Desi Divas: Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances is the product of five years of field research with progressive activists associated with the School for Indian Languages and Cultures (SILC), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), the feminist dance collective Post Natyam, and the grassroots feminist political organization South Asian Sisters. Christine L. Garlough explores how traditional cultural forms may be critically appropriated by marginalized groups and used as rhetorical tools to promote deliberation and debate, spur understanding and connection, broaden political engagement, and advance particular social identities. Within this framework she examines how these performance activists advocate a political commitment to both justice and care, to both deliberative discussion and deeper understanding. To consider how this might happen in diasporic performance contexts, Garlough weaves together two lines of thinking. One grows from feminist theory and draws upon a core literature concerning the ethics of care. The other comes from rhetoric, philosophy, and political science literature on recognition and acknowledgment. This dual approach is used to reflect upon South Asian American women's performances that address pressing social problems related to gender inequality, immigration rights, ethnic stereotyping, hate crimes, and religious violence.Case study chapters address the relatively unknown history of South Asian American rhetorical performances from the early 1800s to the present. Avant-garde feminist performances by the Post Natyam dance collective appropriate women's folk practices and Hindu goddess figures make rhetorical claims about hate crimes against South Asian Americans after 9/11. In Yoni ki Bat (a South Asian American version of The Vagina Monologues) a progressive performer transforms aspects of the Mahabharata narrative to address issues of sexual violence, such as incest and rape. Throughout the volume, Garlough argues that these performers rely on calls for acknowledgment that intertwine calls for justice and care. That is, they embed their testimony in traditional cultural forms to invite interest, reflection, and connection.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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Writing a book is always a collective endeavor. With this in mind, I would like to express my deep gratitude to those who have contributed to this work.This book would not have come into being without the open and welcom-ing response of the South Asian American activists and performers whose eﬀorts fill these pages: teachers and students at the School for Indian Lan-...
Chapter One: Toward Acknowledgment: Care in Diasporic Performances
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Shyamala Moorty sits on a cold, white toilet in the center of a bare stage. Her eyes move slowly across an audience that includes mainstream and South Asian American community members, war veterans, as well as uni-versity students and faculty. This diverse group has come together on a cold October night in Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in a 2005 performance ...
Chapter Two: Performing South Asian American Histories
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Stay in the harness and work for justice and the betterment of your country, the mainte-nance of its flag and the protection of its white people, and let it not be said of us that there —Delegate C. O. Young, Representative of the American Federation of Labor, February 1908We have not only a Hindu prayer being oﬀered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison for Minnesota. Those are changes and they ...
Chapter Three: National Recognition and Community Acknowledgment
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And if it is good to be recognized, it is better to be welcomed, precisely because this is some-—Hannah Arendt (1969, Speech to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1)Performances at folk festivals have long encouraged community members to engage in imaginary travel, drawing attention to the tension between us/them, here/there, and then/now, while also collapsing these divides (Bau-...
Chapter Four: A Future in Relation to the Other
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Since the horrifying terrorist attacks, things have been diﬀerent . . . I’ve seen people whisper-ing to each other as they eye my salwar kameez, and I know that to some of them the loose pants and long tunic seem just like the clothes of the Palestinian women we all saw on T.V.rejoicing after the attacks. Well-meaning friends have emailed warnings that I should wear only western attire, not go anywhere alone, and even buy a gun. I want to laugh oﬀ these sug-...
Chapter Five: Cultural Activism and Sexuality in Feminist Performance
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Growing up in a dominant society where the appropriation of my culture has become a sort of fad, having the raw and honest reality of our diasporic experiences performed is invalu-able. Yoni Ki Baat is a medium in which we can begin to address our problems, and value the In the United States today, consumer culture often fuels the multicultural attraction to everyday “ethnic” performances. Nose rings, mendhi tattoos, ...
Chapter Six: Intertwining Folklore and Rhetoric: Cultural Performance, Acknowledgment, and Social Justice
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Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn’t merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence As part of the human condition, innumerable manifestations of violence challenge us during the course of our lives. Around the world, people strug-...
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013