Monday, April 7, 2008

watching mississippi masala was an interesting turn of discourse for me in context of this class for a couple of reasons. foremostly, this would be the first time we are focusing on an example of south asian 'pop culture' in the class. the prevailing stereotypes of south asian communities are usually very different from those of east asian nations like those we've studied so far. if anyone has read vijay prashad's the karma of brown folk, we know that historically south asians, especially indian immigrants in america have distinct histories of travelling and staying for good in the US, whether it is because of the "brain drain" or jsut because of economic troubles in the motherland and the bring-your-family-over policy offered to asian technicians by the american government. what i felt was really interesting in watching this film in particular is that the indian family was not from india, but from africa. the most meaningful line in the film seemed to be unassociated with the major love story but with the theme of belonging when the Ugandan African man says to mena's father, "uganda is for black africans." this raises an a couple important issues: 1. second-class citizenship due to racism in a country other than america and 2. skin color.

i raise the first issue because even though this situation is unique to the family in this story, it is important because it forces us to venture more into the historically complex diaspora of Indian populations throughout other continents and different forms and accounts of discrimination against Asians in the past. I have to admit, I did not know about the Asian deportation in Uganda and this movie made me do some research. I had American images of the taxi-driving-New-Yorker-Indian stereotype and the wealthy-traditional-indian-technician-from-north-carolina in my head but studying diaspora is important because like the family in the movie, many asians have travelled as fugitives from one country to another to wind up finally here.

the second issue is a little more interesting because it ties in the love story and the issue of miscegenation and mixed-race marriages. though the image of the strict traditional asian parents who wont allow mixed race marriages is something i've been exposed to a lot in the past, the line that really stuck out for me was when demetrius spoke to mena's father about the indians' skin tone being just a couple shades lighter than his own. the issue of "darkies" that the indian women gossip about in the film is also something i'd like to discuss in class because it really is pertinent more in the south asian context. how does skin color affect racism in the asian american community?

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