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At the Crossroads of Two Empires: Mira Nair's Mississippi Masala and the Limits of Hybridity

From: Journal of Asian American Studies
Volume 6, Number 2, June 2003
pp. 177-198 | 10.1353/jaas.2004.0013


This essay addresses Mira Nair's canonical 1992 film Mississippi Masala and explores its troubled parentage of contemporary immigrant, diaspora, and South Asian American cinema. While newer films about the South Asian diaspora describe cultural integration rather than the complex politics of exile, Mississippi Masala could not envision a future in which cultural hybridity held a legitimate public space. The inescapable legacy of empire produces a disjuncture between Mississippi Masala's forward-looking politics and its ambivalent ending: the film illuminates but fails to transcend the geographical and historical boundaries of British colonialism and American slavery. The very hybridity that Mira Nair celebrates through vibrant visual spectacle finds itself bereft of a "place" on empireÕs geographical and political map.

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