How does an immigrant become an ethnic American? And does American society fundamentally alter because of these newcomers?
In Ethnic Routes to Becoming American, Sharmila Rudrappa examines the paths South Asian immigrants in Chicago take toward assimilation in the late twentieth-century United States, where deliberations on citizenship rights are replete with the politics of recognition. She takes us inside two ethnic institutions, a battered women’s shelter, Apna Ghar, and a cultural organization, the Indo American Center, to show how immigrant activism, which brings cultural difference into public sphere debates, ironically abets these immigrants’ assimilation. She interlaces ethnographic details with political-philosophical debates on the politics of recognition and redistribution. In this study on the under-researched topic of the incorporation of South Asian immigrants into the American polity, Sharmila Rudrappa compels us to rethink ethnic activism, participatory democracy, and nation-building processes.
The internet has transformed the idea of home for Indians and Indian Americans. In Virtual Homelands: Indian Immigrants and Online Cultures in the United States, Madhavi Mallapragada analyzes home pages and other online communities organized by diasporic and immigrant Indians from the late 1990s through the social media period. Engaging the shifting aspects of belonging, immigrant politics, and cultural citizenship by linking the home page, household, and homeland as key sites, Mallapragada illuminates the contours of belonging and reveals how Indian American struggles over it trace back to the web's active mediation in representing, negotiating, and reimagining "home."
As Mallapragada shows, ideologies around family and citizenship shift to fit the transnational contexts of the online world and immigration. At the same time, the tactical use of the home page to make gender, racial, and class struggles visible and create new modes for belonging implicates the web within complex political and cultural terrain. On e-commerce, community, and activist sites, the recasting of home and homeland online points to intrusion by public agents such as the state, the law, and immigration systems in the domestic, the private, and the familial. Mallapragada reveals that the home page may mobilize to reproduce conservative narratives of Indian immigrants' familial and citizenship cultures, but the reach of a website extends beyond the textual and discursive to encompass the institutions shaping it, as the web unmakes and remakes ideas of "India" and "America."