How Does It Feel to Be the Solution? Indians and Indian Diaspora Fiction: Their Role in the Marketplace and the University

  • Dorothy M. Figueira


A few years ago, the librettist for the Broadway show Bombay Dreams was quoted as saying, ‘Brown is the new black.’ William Safire noted in the New York Times that Meera Syal was not making a fashion statement with this comment. She was, in fact, alluding rather to the popularity of South Asians in the West and the perception that the culture of people with brown skin from South Asia was ‘hotter’ than the culture of black-skinned people in the estimation of certain whites.1 In this chapter, I would like to question this assertion in light of the role Indians play in American academe. Is it the case, as Vijay Prashad has succinctly put it, that American institutions use Indians as a weapon against Black America?2 Prashad evokes W. E. B. Du Bois’s question to Black Americans: ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ — and asks his fellow Indian Americans, ‘How does it feel to be a solution?’3 In Otherwise Occupied (2008),4 I argued that Indian critics have devised the theory and pedagogy of postcolonialism as much out of desire for inclusion, as white America has institutionalized and implemented them in a concerted attempt to marginalize traditional minorities in American universities. The popularity of Indian American fiction in the literary canon and its wholesale adoption into the multicultural curriculum has facilitated this process.


Affirmative Action Short Story Indian Identity Immigrant Experience Indian Immigrant 
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  1. 2.
    Vijay Prashad (2000) The Karma of Brown Folk, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p. 6.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Dorothy Figueira (2008) Otherwise Occupied: Pedagogies of Alterity and the Brahminization of Theory, Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Sucheta Mazumdar (1989) ‘Race and racism: South Asians in the United States’, in Gail M. Nomura, Russell Endo, Stephen H. Sumida and Russell C Leong (eds), Frontiers of Asian American Studies: Writing, Research, and Commentary, Pullman: Washington State University Press, p. 31.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Harold Isaacs (1972) Images of Asia: American Views of China and India, New York: Harper and Row, p. 290.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    See Inderpal Grewal (1994) ‘The postcolonial, ethnic studies, and the diaspora: The contexts of ethnic immigration/migrant cultural studies in the US’, Socialist Review, 24(4): 71.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Deepika Bahri (1995) ‘Once more with feeling: What is postcolonialism?’, Ariel, 26(1): 51–82.Google Scholar
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    Aijaz Ahmad (1992) In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures, London: Verso, p. 222.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas (1952) Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India, Oxford: Clarendon; (1956) ‘A note on Sanskritization and Westernization’, Far Eastern Quarterly, 15(4): 481–496.Google Scholar
  9. For a discussion of the Aryan myth, see Dorothy Figueira (2002) Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity, Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar

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© Dorothy M. Figueira 2014

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  • Dorothy M. Figueira

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