Nevin Rao

South-Asian Masculinity in the 21st Century: Exploring the Strategies Employed in Negotiating its Influence

In the United States, representations of South-Asian masculinity are limited to characters like ‘bug’ from Crossing Jordan or Kumar from Harold and Kumar – characters who are constantly reproduced as either nameless nerds or crass druggies. But how do young South-Asian American men understand their own masculinity? Just as the colonial British diffused South-Asian resistance through conceptions of English masculinity, so too does the power of white American masculinity influence South-Asian American men. I will explore the ways in which model minority ideology, pointing to South-Asians as successful examples of this ideology, works to subtly stifle any latent resistance and reassert patriarchal authority. My project aims to explore the unchartered territory of 21st century South-Asian American masculinity through the ethnography of a subset of South-Asian men attending or recently graduated from college. I will argue that it is against the backdrop of model minority ideology and American male hegemony that South-Asian masculinity is formed. I believe that without interrogating the image of the South-Asian man in America, other ways of being South-Asian in America, whether poor, struggling or queer, are rendered invisible and vulnerable, due to a lack of needed resources and support.