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The Transnational and Transcolonial Studies Multicampus Research Group is an interdisciplinary community of scholars in the humanities and the social sciences from throughout the University of California system. Our common purpose is to collaborate on the study of minority discourse across national boundaries (transnational) with attention to colonial and neocolonial processes (transcolonial). Our immediate research goal is to publish a series of books that will reformulate minority discourse from a comparative perspective informed by a consideration of transnational and transcolonial processes (see the definitions of these terms in "Research Program Description" on our website). The core group of 43 members: meets regularly and holds workshops and conferences; mentors graduate students with an aim to help publish their work; invites outside speakers (nationally and internationally known scholars in minority discourse as well as minority cultural producers such as artists and writers) to enrich our comparative approach; and finally, aids in pedagogical transformations in high schools and universities so as to encourage curricular changes that reflect the demographic diversity in California. Ultimately, our institutional goal is to create a Center for Transnational and Transcolonial Studies that provides linages among area studies and ethnic studies centers, as well as humanities and social science departments where the focus is often predominantly mainstream (majority discourse) or bounded by one discipline, one nation, one culture, or one language. The Center will organize research and publication, promote pedagogical development, and coordinate related research efforts at the University of California.

Cover page of Second-Generation Indian Americans and the Trope of Arranged Marriage

Second-Generation Indian Americans and the Trope of Arranged Marriage


I was sitting in the Atlanta airport last October, minding my own business and desperately trying to recover from the excesses of four days of celebrating a friend’s wedding, when the middle-aged man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. Upon finding out that I was Indian American, his pleasant smile was replaced with a look of patronizing concern: "So, they’re going to send you back there to get married huh?" he asked knowingly. I immediately went into defense-mode: "We don’t do that anymore," I retorted and our ostensibly innocent conversation came to an abrupt end. As I sat in stony silence across from that poor man, I wondered why I had responded the way I did. After all, I was just coming from the wedding of a bride and groom who met at a regional youth convention that we all know is just a marriage market by another name, and only few months before another friend had gotten married after her parents set the ball in motion. I obviously knew then from my own first-hand experience that arranged marriage is a lot more complicated than parents sending their child back to India to get married and that indeed, arranged marriage in one or another of its infinite variety of forms happens all the time. Why then was my first instinct to vehemently disavow arranged marriage altogether, thus implicitly accepting this stranger’s stereotypical reduction of the practice?

This paper is my effort to understand just this problematic. It appears that my "psychosis" regarding the question of arranged marriage is not only a personal problem, but rather that the trope of arranged marriage haunts the creative output of a large cross-section of Indian American youth. For instance, in the last decade or so, a spate of Indian American cultural products (literature, films, music) have interrogated the diasporic identities of "1.5" and second-generation Indian Americans. Significantly, a number of these works employ (either centrally or peripherally) a caricatured version of arranged marriage as the locus for their representation of Indian American identity-formation. If we agree that any productive engagement with the question of arranged marriage must necessarily acknowledge its complex and varied character, and that furthermore, compliance with or resistance to heteronormatively-defined arranged marriage should not sum up the totality of Indian American identity, how then do we understand the pervasiveness of arranged marriage as a trope of cultural and generational conflict?

In this paper, I will argue that Indian Americans are interpellated by a "regime of representation" that encompasses the images of Indianness produced by strains of US and Indian popular culture. If, in the words of Stuart Hall, the meanings of arranged marriage "float" so widely, how is it that these representational paradigms attempt to "fix" what is signified by the term? It is my hope that an investigation of this issue will show how this fixing produces stereotypes that are then used as emblems for diasporic Indian selfhood, and that what is at stake here is nothing less than control over female sexuality in the service of a hegemonic definition of cultural identity. Finally, through an examination of the Indian American film, ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), I will analyze the process by which second-generation Indian Americans generate self-definitions that often remain bounded by this representational matrix, and in so doing often replicate the fixation on arranged marriage as an overarching signifier of diasporic identity.

Cover page of Forging the New Desi Music: Transnational Identity and Musical Syncretism at a South Asian-American Festival

Forging the New Desi Music: Transnational Identity and Musical Syncretism at a South Asian-American Festival


For three days in late April of 2002, Hollywood, California, was home to Artwallah, a multimedia arts festival of the South Asian Diaspora. "Artwallah" essentially means "one who does art," and over 65 artists and performers of South Asian heritage contributed their individual talents and distinctive voices to a collective expression that included dance, film, visual arts, theater, literature, stand-up comedy, and music. In addition to creating a temporary physical space conducive to the sharing of art and experience between participants and the audience, the festival also provided an ideological space that encouraged an inherently "hybrid" style of artistic expression. According to the festival program booklet, this body of work, "though rooted in South Asia, reflects the establishment of the home and the self in new lands." Indeed, the tension between the ancestral homeland and the cultural mainstream of North America was a thread that ran consistently through every medium of expression at Artwallah, leading to unexpected collaborations with thoroughly moving results.

In this paper, I specifically examine the music performed at Artwallah 2002, and the snapshot it provides of the emerging trends of music production and consumption among South Asian-Americans—particularly the younger second generation. Not surprisingly, the music of second generation South Asian-Americans reflects this tension between cultural and national identity through various styles of music that couple South Asian genres with the now global pop genres of hip hop and house, among others. It is my intention to query the relationship between these musical activities and the formation of a "hyphenated" cultural identity, such as "Indian-American," or the more colloquial "Desi-American." As this new Desi-American music searches for its voice, it both reflects and contributes to a maturing transnational identity among people of South Asian heritage in the complex sociopolitical context of North America.

Cover page of "Imported Rituals:  Zaddiq Veneration in Israel"

"Imported Rituals: Zaddiq Veneration in Israel"


"'Rabbi Ifargan is approaching! Please make room to let him pass! Women! Move aside! The Rabbi will not enter the place if you stay so thickly crowded! Please, please…'

The request resonates from the loudspeakers into the forested dark valley in the Galilee region of Israel. Women reluctantly give up their places in front of the big metal fireplace where hundreds of candles are burning. Rabbi Ifargan, a young Jewish orthodox man, clad in a black cloak and a hat comes in followed by a dozen young men. It is slightly after midnight and freezing cold. The 'Tikkun Hazot' ritual is about to begin on a mountain slope by the grave of Zaddiq Yonatan ben Uziel. An elderly man who is holding the microphone starts singing popular religious songs . The crowd joins in loudly. About 300 people are standing on the muddy ground, far away from their warm beds. They are waiting for the Rabbi to start his prayers.

In immigration societies, two different strands constantly intertwine. On the one hand, immigrants seek their special ethnic identity, tending to socialize among themselves, while on the other, they are a part of the larger society, influencing it and influenced by it. In this paper, I will discuss the stories of 5 pilgrims in Israel who currently participate repetitively in rituals held at sites where sacred graves exist. I will show how for second and third-generation Moroccan-immigrants in Israel, such pilgrimages enhance continuity with their ancestor heritage. For other pilgrims it is a new tradition they choose to embrace.

Israel is an immigrant society. By 1948 the Jewish population of Israel was estimated at about 700,000. In 50 years the number has risen to about 5,000,000. Immigration of Jews, in waves, was the main reason for this population increase. In the 50s and 60s, most immigrants were from Northern Africa, especially from Morocco. These immigrants encountered a society composed mainly by people of European origin. The official cultural policy was called 'The melting pot' and aimed to create one cultural entity. The result was that North-African immigrants had to conform to the mainstream ideas and give up many of their traditions. Two decades later, composing about a third of the Jewish population in Israel, the groups of North-African origin started a struggle to recover some of their lost heritage. By the year 2000, the Israeli cultural arena became more diverse. My ethnographic fieldwork was conducted mainly in the years 1998 and 1999, with a few follow-ups during 2000 and 2001. My main focus is on a nightly ceremony conducted in the vicinity of Zaddiq graves in the northern and southern regions of Israel. A Zaddiq is a righteous person who cures ill people and helps those in need. This is accomplished by miracles, attributed to his faith in God and his distinct and holy way of life. In some aspects it is a Jewish parallel to a Christian or a Muslim saint."

Cover page of Diasporic Memory is Recherché rather than Recuperation

Diasporic Memory is Recherché rather than Recuperation


"'Identities are the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves in, the narratives of the past.' --Stuart Hall

In this day and age, it is increasingly necessary to recognize the importance of cultural memory in minority rights struggles. Questions of how cultural memory is implicated in the construction of identities and diasporic re-presentations of self must be central to any resistance against dominant cultures’ mis-representation of Other. As immigrants, our memories of home and who and what we were and could become are crucial, especially in the wake of the identity disorienting consequences of a rapidly changing postmodern landscape. In forming our diasporic memories, we must first recognize that memory is not set or carefully preserved in time waiting for its easy retrieval. It is rather a phenomenon that must be researched, constructed, and re-presented. The re-presentation of our cultural memories is significant to our struggle for voice because '…all representation –whether in language, narrative, image, or recorded sound- is based on memory. Re-presentation always comes after, even though some media will try to provide us with the delusion of pure essence' (Huyssen 1995: 2).

Looking specifically at re-presentation as constructed memory, we find that more and more there is a growing need for critical media literacy, which includes the creation of alternative media representations. Although we, as audiences, are most probably jaded by the constant production, distribution, and our consumption of cinematic imagery, we are not necessarily literate in this media and how it affects power struggles, daily social practices, and identity construction. Douglas Kellner (1995) passionately argues for the development of media literacy mainly because of the pedagogical nature of media culture that either induces individuals to conform to established organization of mainstream society or provides a resource for the successful empowerment of individuals (and most importantly collectives) against that society. Media literacy is an important project. It is the development of a critical understanding of media manifestations, for example, determining and documenting what kinds of social insights media imagery provides, how it may reproduce and/or contest dominant ideologies, and (in the latter case) how this imagery may be used to 'critically read the world' (Freire, 1973)."

Cover page of "'By being better Samoans you are also becoming better Americans': An Emic Pedagogy of Applied Identity for Samoan Youth in San Francisco"

"'By being better Samoans you are also becoming better Americans': An Emic Pedagogy of Applied Identity for Samoan Youth in San Francisco"


A Samoan studies professor at the National University of Samoa introduces a new word, fa’asinomaga (identity) in the mid 1990s. A teacher rehearses a skit with a room full of Samoan teens on a chilly summer day in a working class neighborhood of San Francisco in July 2002. A librarian in Carson prepares herself for a Samoan linguistics conference to be held in New Zealand in the winter of 2003. These three events, separated in place and time evoke both the scope and orientations of the Samoan diaspora as well as give a glimpse of an active and ongoing attempt to keep a traditional culture current in face of the culturally homogenizing influence of globalization.

This paper has two parts. In the first part I will briefly explore the Samoan conceptions of culture and identity. In the second part I will look at how one Samoan teacher has applied identity principles in a summer youth program in San Francisco. Ultimately I will argue that this attempted cultural reification is an example of, what I will call, ‘applied identity.’

Cover page of Qué gusto me da sentir tu voz: Restarting the Dialog that Diaspora Interrupted

Qué gusto me da sentir tu voz: Restarting the Dialog that Diaspora Interrupted


"Peace, according to journalist Christopher Hedges (2003), is about the recovery of a narrative, a common narrative.1 This paper is an iteration of that theme. It is a narrative recounting a month-long visit to La Güinera, a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Havana, Cuba. It is the neighborhood where several of my Cuban relatives live, and where I stayed when I went to Cuba for the first time, in August of 2001.

For the past 44 years, it has served the political interests of privileged groups in both Cuba and the United States to discursively divide the nation into two antagonistic sides: those in favor of the government that came to power in 1959, and those against it. But regardless of whether one answers to these tightly bound subject positions, the pain of absence bleeds profusely, arbitrarily, rhizomatically, into the lived experiences of those who left the island, and those who have stayed. This narrative is a tracing of one such course of history in the Cuban community."