Update/Art Advisory: “Disappeared”

A note on the tipline from desi academic extraordinaire Amitava Kumar reminds us of Disappeared in America, an ongoing multimedia project that began by documenting the round-up of immigrants in the post-9/11 hysteria and has now expanded into a web of collaborations among America- and Europe-based artists. Together they are tackling the rise of suspicion and xenophobia in all these countries, the climate of secrecy and fear, the intended and unintended consequences of actions by governments and their foes. (Manish mentioned the project last February here.)

… While our work started in the American context, we have expanded to look at Europe & the Middle East, in recognition that anti-migrant xenophobia, coupled with Islamophobia, is not a new or uniquely American phenomenon.

The collaborative has several new “interventions” in the next couple of months in New York, Houston and San Francisco that Mutineers in those cities might find interesting.

This is also an opportunity to point folks to tipster Amitava’s work. Now a professor at Vassar College, he’s one of those desi polymaths who covers politics, art, culture, discourse, sociology with even analytical poise and great literary verve. He’s also perhaps the most prominent and interesting discussant of matters Bihari on the web. Indeed, if there’s a thematic connection here, it’s that he is actively engaged in un-disappearing Bihar from the collective consciousness, a Sisyphean task that he handles with aplomb.

Recent posts on Amitava’s blog include one featuring photos from the arrival in Bihar of the avian flu; a mock letter from Lalu Yadav, Bihar’s “supremo” (as an Indian newspaper might say) to George Bush; and a joyful announcement of the upcoming U.S. edition of Upamanyu Chatterjee’s comic classic English, August, 18 years after its original publication.

10 thoughts on “Update/Art Advisory: “Disappeared”

  1. when my parents were asked about anti-muslim prejudice in the usa (they live in the seattle area) when they visited bangladesh they expressed the opinion that that was trivial compared to anti-sikh prejudice after 9-11. granted, the proximate roots* of the prejudice are derived from islam, but the disproportionate target seem to be sikhs. so, i think that we need to talk about sikhaphobia, if we are going to talk about islamophobia.

    • i also would contend there were very few people who became anti-muslim after 9-11 from being a state of muslim neutrality. rather, bigoted people were galvanized and found another outlet for ‘what comes naturally.’
  2. razib, you’re splitting hairs. of course sikhs are specially targeted, we’ve discussed this here any number of times. but that doesn’t take away from the validity of what this project is trying to do. let’s not arrange the firing squad in a circle. there’s room for positive change and awareness on multiple fronts as once.


  3. I live in canada and from a sikh family. But I have been to States after 9/11 and I have never had any problems at all.

  4. Except that Sikhaphobia covaries almost exactly with Islamaphobia, and has no other content. I remember this during the Iranian hostage crisis as a youngster, and then during the first Iraq war, etc. Sikhs stand is a proxy for Arabs/Moslems/DirtySandNiggers. It’s not just about BinLaden, it far predates him.

    Imagine if Muslims were being attacked by anti-semites who confused them with Jews. Would it make sense to address the issue of Islamaphobia in that context, or would it be more reasonable to confront the anti-semitism directly?

  5. thanks guys.. you are scaring the crap out of me… i’m like… swarthy with facial hair and have a somewhat intense look (on the inside i’m really doing the bolly-dance in a green meadow, really!)… and frig me with a thorny stump.. ’cause i have an open jaw ticket from DC …let’s see if the long arm of the law lubes me before probing at dca.
    no… i wont have this. for every jerk out there in the US, there’s more than a handful who will stand up for what’s right. nothing to fear but the fear of being feared.

  6. This is gonna sound bad but does keshdari mean?

    I’m clean shaven and have somewhat lighter skintone then most punjabi’s. Since living in Vancouver for almost 4 years with a lot of punjabi people tell me that I don’t look punjabi, cause I don’t have punajbi features. Whatever that means? One of my dad cousins gave me the nickname parsee,cause I look like one.

    I have 5 pair of aunt/uncles and 15 older cousins in California and they have not had much problems since 9/11

    The sikh population is only 500,000 out of 290 millions people, most americans don’t know what a sikh is.

  7. PJF, well in that case, of course it’s going to be less likely that you’re going to be harassed. especially when you’ve just been here, and don’t actually live here.

    i’ve never understand the purpose of “it’s never happened to me” comments, because the only purpose it serves is to undermine the racist experiences that many people do have to endure; as if they are isolated incidents, instead of what they really are–manifestations of a greater problem. you’re ‘whiter-looking’ than many desis and therefore don’t experience harassment–congratulations!

  8. PJF,

    This is gonna sound bad but does keshdari mean?

    It basically means the opposite of “clean-shaven” in the Sikh sense of the term; technically it refers to Sikhs who have uncut hair (face & head), although since many Sikhs trim their beards these days, it can also be taken to mean Sikh men who basically wear a turban and have a beard to some extent or another.

    Ennis – please correct me if I’ve been inaccurate in my explanation.

  9. i encountered a bunch of teenagers on my way back home (i was coming from school), and they started harassing me and screaming “asians fuck off home”.:(