The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.
Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.
Today the U.S. and the rest of the world commemorates the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many media outlets, think tanks and research institutions, organizations, and individual commentators have offered their own analyses of what transpired on that day 10 years ago and what has happened since. Like those of many Americans, my reflections are complex and even contradictory.
On the one hand, I still mourn those who suffered on that eventful day, in the years since, and continue to suffer today. I also applaud the ways in which, at least for a while, we came together as Americans, united by our fierce loyalty to fundamental principles upon which this country was founded. On the other hand, I also feel that we as Americans have given given into fear too much and that has allowed many of our institutions to inflict needless hostility against innocent people inside the U.S. and around the world.
To hopefully serve as a teaching and learning resource about the issues related to this 10th anniversary, I humbly offer the following retrospective of posts related to 9/11, the war on terrorism, and the treatment of Arab and Muslim Americans (or those perceived to be by the rest of society) since Sept. 11, 2001 (in chronological order).
As the nation prepares to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, there are many different ways to think about how those events have affected the Asian American community in the past decade. One important contribution comes from the academic journal The Asian American Literary Review, which has just released a special issue of testimonies, essays, and dialogues written by community activists, writers, and scholars that explore the the political, legal, and civil rights repercussions for most directly affected: South Asians, Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Muslim Americans. An excerpt of their press release and their table of contents are below:
Asian American Literary Review Releases Special Issue Commemorating Tenth Anniversary Of Sept. 11
As the tenth anniversary of September 11th, 2001 approaches, how can we reflect on that day and its aftermath when so many of the voices of affected communities remain unheard? In the interests of broadening the public conversation, The Asian American Literary Review (AALR) is publishing a special commemorative issue that gives voice to those too frequently unheard.
AALR’s Special Issue: Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Sept. 11 features a Sikh American musician on the traumas of experience, before and after; an Indian American lawyer on defending Guantánamo detainees; a Pakistani American Muslim feminist on teaching September 11th; an Afghan American poet on envisioning the first Afghan American literary anthology; an Arab American scholar on why Arab American fiction matters; and organizers and participants on the 10-year anniversary of Desis Organizing, the first gathering of NYC South Asian activists and artists. . . .
Rajini Srikanth, Introduction
Section 1: Witness and Grieving
Sonny Singh, Testimony
Anouska Cheddie, Testimony
Samina Najmi, “Teaching as a Pakistani American Muslim Feminist”
Unais Ibrahim, Shahara Ahmed, and Tauseef Kazi, Testimony
Kazim Ali, “September 14th”
Varun Sriram, “My Airport Story”
Siddharth Shah, “Terrorized Nervous Systems and Islamophobic Backlash: The Case for Neurobiological and Psychosocial Countermeasures”
Rishi Reddi, “On Being South Asian Post 9/11”
Mary Husain, Rakhshanda Saleem, Sunaina Maira, and Veena Dubal, “Forum | On 9/11 as ‘Rupture'”
Sudha Acharya, Testimony
Theresa Thanjan, Testimony
Elizabeth OuYang, Testimony
DJ Rekha, Postcard & Testimony
Anant Raut, “I Guess You Had to Be”
Vijay Prashad, “Dear Uncle Swami”
Visuals from Visible Collective
Section 2: New Formations, New Alignments
Adem Carroll, Testimony
Tito Sinha and Chaumtoli Huq, “Laying the Groundwork for-Post 9/11 Alliances: Reactions Ten Years Later on Desis Organizing”
Zohra Saed, Testimony
Pico Iyer, “Ten Years On”
Angie Chuang, “Six Syllables: Searching for Home, and the Post-9/11 Metaphor, in Kabul”
Pawan Dhingra, “Post-9/11 Vacancies: Race, Economics, and Indian American Motel Owners”
Deepa Iyer, Gary Okihiro, Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, Sunita, S. Mukhi, Jennifer Hayashida, Abla Harara, Nadia Firozvi, and Robert Ji-Song Ku, “Forum | On the Desi America-Asian America Split and New Alignments Between South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim Americans”
Tram Nguyen, “On Suspects and Belonging: Post-9/11 America”
Khin Mai Aung, Testimony
Magid Shihade, “On 9/11 and the War on ‘Terror’: Names, Numbers, and Events”
Elora Chowdhury, “Unsuspecting Connections: Reactions on Teaching ‘Becoming South Asian’ to Non-South Asians in Post-9/11 America”
Vasudha Desikan, Testimony
Saru Jayaraman, Testimony
Subhash Kateel by Parag Khandhar, “The Long View: An Interview”
Visuals from Tomie Arai
Section 3: We Live in Echo
Dinu Ahmed and Moumita Zaman, “A Dialogue on Khadijah’s Caravan”
Mazen Naous, “Why Arab American Fiction Matters”
Amitava Kumar, Harold Ja e, Anis Shivani, and Shailja Patel, “Forum | On Literature Post 9/11”
Zohra Saed, Testimony
Ronak Kapadia, Prerana Reddy, Naeem Mohaiemen, Vivek Bald, Aimara Lin, Uzma Z. Rizvi, and Aziz Huq, “Collectives in Post-2001 New York: A Conversation with
Madhulika Khandelwal, Testimony
Purvi Shah, Hossannah Asuncion, Tamiko Beyer, April Heck, R.A. Villanueva, and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, “A Public Art, A Re-membered Poetry, A Community Constellation: A Dialogue on the Kundiman Project Together We Are New York”
Shahid Buttar and Dan S. Wang, Testimony
Giles Li and Sham-e Ali Nayeem, “On the DVD Ten Years Later: Asian American Performers Reflect on 9/11”
Below are a few more recently-released books that highlight Asian Americans, immigration, and/or other racial/ethnic groups along a variety of historical and contemporary sociological issues. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
South Asia occupies a very interesting position in the field of Asian Studies and Asian American Studies — countries and cultures such as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh share many similarities with those in East Asia and Southeast Asia but at the same time, such South Asian countries and cultures feature very unique histories and characteristics. South Asians here in the U.S. frequently disagree among themselves about whether they should be part of the larger “Asian American” category as well. To help us examine these intricacies in more detail, the follow books focus on the histories, experiences, and identities of people from South Asia.
Through a lyrical narrative of her journey to Tibet in 2007, activist Canyon Sam contemplates modern history from the perspective of Tibetan women. Traveling on China’s new “Sky Train,” she celebrates Tibetan New Year with the Lhasa family whom she’d befriended decades earlier and concludes an oral-history project with women elders.
As she uncovers stories of Tibetan women’s courage, resourcefulness, and spiritual strength in the face of loss and hardship since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, and observes the changes wrought by the controversial new rail line in the futuristic “new Lhasa,” Sam comes to embrace her own capacity for letting go, for faith, and for acceptance. Her glimpse of Tibet’s past through the lens of the women – a visionary educator, a freedom fighter, a gulag survivor, and a child bride – affords her a unique perspective on the state of Tibetan culture today – in Tibet, in exile, and in the widening Tibetan diaspora.
Gracefully connecting the women’s poignant histories to larger cultural, political, and spiritual themes, the author comes full circle, finding wisdom and wholeness even as she acknowledges Tibet’s irreversible changes.
Providing a useful analysis of and framework for understanding immigration and assimilation narratives, anupama jain’s How to Be South Asian in America considers the myth of the American Dream in fiction (Meena Alexander’s Manhattan Music), film (American Desi, American Chai), and personal testimonies. By interrogating familiar American stories in the context of more supposedly exotic narratives, jain illuminates complexities of belonging that also reveal South Asians’ anxieties about belonging, (trans)nationalism, and processes of cultural interpenetration. jain argues that these stories transform as well as reflect cultural processes, and she shows just how aspects of identity, gender, sexual, class, ethnic, and nationality are shaped by South Asians’ accommodation of and resistance to mainstream American culture.
Mohanty has assembled an innovative volume of essays situated at the intersection of at least three multi-disciplinary fields: postcolonial and subaltern theory; comparative literary analysis, especially with a South Asian and transnational focus; and the study of “alternative” and “indigenous” modernities. This definitive new work grounds the political insights of postcolonial and subaltern theory in close textual analysis and challenges readers to think in new ways about global modernity and local cultures.
Terrifying Muslims highlights how transnational working classes from Pakistan are produced, constructed, and represented in the context of American empire and the recent global War on Terror. Drawing on ethnographic research that compares Pakistan, the Middle East, and the United States before and after 9/11, Junaid Rana combines cultural and material analyses to chronicle the worldviews of Pakistani labor migrants as they become part of a larger global racial system.
At the same time, he explains how these migrants’ mobility and opportunities are limited by colonial, postcolonial, and new imperial structures of control and domination. He argues that the contemporary South Asian labor diaspora builds on and replicates the global racial system consolidated during the period of colonial indenture. Rana maintains that a negative moral judgment attaches to migrants who enter the global labor pool through the informal economy. This taint of the illicit intensifies the post–9/11 Islamophobia that collapses varied religions, nationalities, and ethnicities into the threatening racial figure of “the Muslim.”
It is in this context that the racialized Muslim is controlled by a process that beckons workers to enter the global economy, and stipulates when, where, and how laborers can migrate. The demonization of Muslim migrants in times of crisis, such as the War on Terror, is then used to justify arbitrary policing, deportation, and criminalization.
You might be interested to read the following posts from July of years past:
2009: Reflections on a Multiracial Buddhist Retreat One of my most controversial posts — In an otherwise refreshing and renewing multiracial Buddhist family retreat, two incidents with racial overtones highlight unconscious racial dynamics still present in American society.
2008: The New Yorker’s Obama Cover The New Yorker’s controversial cartoon cover of Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists brings up a range of reactions from conservatives and liberals.
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them.
Recently, a reader emailed me to ask why Arab, Muslim, and other ethnic and cultural groups from western Asia are not included within the “Asian American” category. I replied that from a sociological point of view, collective group identities such as “Asian American” are based on more than just geography — there are also political, economic, cultural, and religious similarities and differences.
That is why the consensus of scholars generally separate out “Asian Americans” and “Arab and Muslim Americans” as distinct group identities. Nonetheless, I also noted that both Asian Americans and Arab & Muslim Americans share many things in common and in fact, I have written several articles and blog posts on this site on the connections between the two groups.
Below are some recent and notable books that highlight the recent histories and contemporary experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans even more:
This book is the most powerful approach imaginable: it is the story of the last forty-plus years of American history, told through the eyes of Arab Americans. Each chapter describes an event in U.S. history — which may already be familiar to us — and invites us to live that moment in time in the skin of one Arab American. The chapters follow a timeline from 1963 to the present, and the characters live in every corner of this country.
We meet fellow Americans of all creeds and colors, among them the Alabama football player who navigates the stringent racial mores of segregated Birmingham, where a church bombing wakes a nation to the need to make America a truly more equal place; the young wife from Ramallah — now living in Baltimore — who had to abandon her beautiful homeand is now asked by a well-meaning American, “How do you like living in an apartment after living in a tent?”; the Detroit toughs and the potsmoking suburban teenagers, who in different decades become politicized and serious about their heritage despite their own wills; the homosexual man afraid to be gay in the Arab world and afraid to be Arab in America; the two formidable women who wind up working for opposing campaigns in the 2000 presidential election; the Marine fighting in Iraq who meets villagers who ask him, “What are you, an Arab, doing here?”
We glimpse how America sees Arabs as much as how Arabs see America. We revisit the 1973 oil embargo that initiated the American perception of all Arabs as oil-rich sheikhs; the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis that heralded the arrival of Middle Eastern Islam in the American consciousness; bombings across three decades in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, and New York City that bring terrorism to American soil; and both wars in Iraq that have posed Arabs as the enemies of America.
Just over a century ago , W.E.B. Du Bois posed a probing question in his classic The Souls of Black Folk: How does it feel to be a problem? Now, Moustafa Bayoumi asks the same about America’s new “problem”-Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Bayoumi takes readers into the lives of seven twenty-somethings living in Brooklyn, home to the largest Arab-American population in the United States.
He moves beyond stereotypes and clichés to reveal their often unseen struggles, from being subjected to government surveillance to the indignities of workplace discrimination. Through it all, these young men and women persevere through triumphs and setbacks as they help weave the tapestry of a new society that is, at its heart, purely American.
Four out of ten Americans say they dislike Muslims, according to a Gallup poll. “Muslims,” a blogger wrote on the Web site Free Republic, “don’t belong in America.” In a lively, funny, and revealing riposte to these sentiments, journalist Jonathan Curiel offers a fascinating tour through the little-known Islamic past, and present, of American culture.
From highbrow to pop, from lighthearted to profound, Al’ America reveals the Islamic and Arab influences before our eyes, under our noses, and ringing in our ears. Curiel demonstrates that many of America’s most celebrated places—including the Alamo in San Antonio, the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina—retain vestiges of Arab and Islamic culture.
Likewise, some of America’s most recognizable music—the Delta Blues, the surf sounds of Dick Dale, the rock and psychedelia of Jim Morrison and the Doors—is indebted to Arab music. And some of America’s leading historical figures, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Elvis Presley, relied on Arab or Muslim culture for intellectual sustenance.
Part travelogue, part cultural history, Al’ America confirms a continuous pattern of give-and-take between America and the Arab-Muslim world. The rich and surprising tapestry of Arab and Islamic influence on America includes:
Architecture: from the World Trade Center to the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina
Music: from the blues to surf music and the Doors
Philosophy and poetry: from the Transcendentalists and Henry James to Khalil Gibran and Rumi
The food we eat: from ice cream cone to coffee
Pop culture: from P.T. Barnum to the Shriners and Star Wars
Bringing the rich terrain of Arab American histories to bear on conceptualizations of race in the U.S., this groundbreaking volume fills a critical gap in the field of ethnic studies. Unlike most immigrant communities who either have been consistently marked as “non-white,” or have made a transition from “non-white” to “white,” Arab Americans historically have been rendered “white” and have increasingly come to be seen as “non-white.”
This book highlights emergent discourses on the distinct ways that race matters to the study of Arab American histories and asks essential questions. What is the relationship between U.S. imperialism in Arab homelands and anti-Arab racism in the lives of Arab Americans? What are the relationships between religion, class, gender, and anti-Arab racism? What is the significance of whiteness studies to Arab American studies?
Transcending multiculturalist discourses after September 11 that have simply “added on” the category “Arab American” to the landscape of U.S. ethnic and racial studies, this volume locates September 11 as a turning point, rather than a beginning, in the history of Arab American engagements with race, multiculturalism, and Americanization.