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A South Asian American diasporic aesthetic community?

[journal article]

Murthy, Dhiraj

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Abstract In the late 1990s, a diverse group of British South Asian musicians began to gain notoriety in the UK for their distinctive blends of synthesized beats with what were considered South Asian elements (e.g. tabla, sitar and `Hindustani' samples). Following these successes, the British media industries engaged in discourses on whether these South Asian musicians should be labelled under pre-existing musical genres such as acid jazz and electronic music or under an ethnically oriented classification such as `The Asian Underground'. Despite vociferous opposition, the latter categorization became the most promulgated. However, this discourse underwent a second iteration when South Asian musicians in New York City created a dance night largely influenced by their transatlantic diasporic colleagues. The purpose of this study was to examine the tensions between ethnically categorizing this New York dance night and not doing so. Using ethnographic data gathered during three months of fieldwork in 2001 as well as through a web-based questionnaire, this study yields interesting findings regarding not only ethnic labelling, but also the larger debate of ethnic essentialism. More specifically, the findings suggest that, on the one hand, ethnically labelling this dance hall as South Asian could facilitate an increased solidarity (sociopolitically) within the diaspora in New York City. While, on the other hand, such labelling could be dangerous to diasporic interests, as it essentializes the South Asian community into a homogenous entity.
Keywords diaspora
Classification Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology, Ethnosociology
Free Keywords Asian identity; essentialism; exoticism; South Asian popular culture;
Document language English
Publication Year 2007
Page/Pages p. 225-247
Journal Ethnicities, 7 (2007) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)