Desi Hoop Dreams

Desi Hoop Dreams: Pickup Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity

Stanley I. Thangaraj
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Desi Hoop Dreams
    Book Description:

    South Asian American men are not usually depicted as ideal American men. They struggle against popular representations as either threatening terrorists or geeky, effeminate computer geniuses. To combat such stereotypes, some use sports as a means of performing a distinctly American masculinity.Desi Hoop Dreamsfocuses on South Asian-only basketball leagues common in most major U.S. and Canadian cities, to show that basketball, for these South Asian American players is not simply a whimsical hobby, but a means to navigate and express their identities in 21st century America.

    The participation of young men in basketball is one platform among many for performing South Asian American identity. South Asian-only leagues and tournaments become spaces in which to negotiate the relationships between masculinity, race, and nation. When faced with stereotypes that portray them as effeminate, players perform sporting feats on the court to represent themselves as athletic. And though they draw on black cultural styles, they carefully set themselves off from African American players, who are deemed "too aggressive." Accordingly, the same categories of their own marginalization-masculinity, race, class, and sexuality-are those through which South Asian American men exclude women, queer masculinities, and working-class masculinities, along with other racialized masculinities, in their effort to lay claim to cultural citizenship.

    One of the first works on masculinity formation and sport participation in South Asian American communities,Desi Hoop Dreamsfocuses on an American popular sport to analyze the dilemma of belonging within South Asian America in particular and in the U.S. in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6297-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    On a warm Sunday afternoon in May 2009, I played with a mostly Muslim basketball team called the Atlanta Rat Pack in the league known as the Asian Ballers League. We an orthodox Greek church in DeKalb County, entrenched in the immediate vicinity of staunchly but lower-middle class and working-class communities side of the first traffic light to the west of the gym. Rat Pack—Mustafa, Mohammed, Imran, Amir, I—arrived separately from different parts of Metro front of the gym to exchange greetings and then where we changed from our casual footwear to our basketball shoes.

    Halfway into this...

  5. 1 Everyday Play: The Formation of Desi Pickup Basketball
    (pp. 27-68)

    Kumrain, a fellow student at Emory University, invited me to play with his South Asian Muslim peers, Mustafa and Qamar, in 1994. Kumrain arrived at my home in Decatur (DeKalb County), and we drove about forty minutes northwest of Atlanta to get to Mustafa’s parents’ home in Gwinnett County. Gwinnett County, in the Atlanta imaginary, was discursively understood as white and thus hostile to communities of color. Once at Mustafa’s house, I noticed him, his older brother Qamar, his younger brother Ali, and their friends Salim and Malik in the drive way shooting on a dilapidated basketball goal. With each...

  6. 2 “Who Is Desi?”: Understanding Organized Brown Out Basketball
    (pp. 69-110)

    As I entered the air-gym on a very balmy, hot Chicago summer day in July 2006, I proceeded to the court where the Virginia Playaz team was playing against the New York Ballaholics team. The premier tournament in the Indo-Basketball U.S. circuit, the Chicago Indo-National Tournament issued only 17 invitations to teams across North America, two of which had gone to these rivals. During lay-lines before the game, players from both sides took practice shots while using creative gestures to make baskets. Viraj, a light-South Asian American playing on the New York Ballaholics team of mostly dark-Malayalee¹ Christian men, captured...

  7. 3 Racial Ambiguity: Hoopin’ in Other Ethnic Leagues
    (pp. 111-144)

    At the April 4, 2009, Asian American tournament at Georgia Tech, the Rat Pack team played the Ballz of Fury team (a team of mostly Asian Americans, white-mixed-persons, and whites). During the customary lay-lines, Mohammed took off his warm-pants to reveal his long, black nylon shorts. He then shoved his T-into his shorts. Rather than simply tucking it in, he exaggerated the act by hiking up the waist of his shorts to his chest. Imran, Amir, and Sanjeet (a Sikh American playing with the Rat Pack for this tournament) could not refrain from laughing at his sartorial depiction of a...

  8. 4 Getting “Digits”: Playing with Heterosexuality and Other Sites of Leisure
    (pp. 145-170)

    The team name “Atlanta Outkasts” was a product of Mustafa’s and Qamar’s engagement with a Southern brand of hip-known as “Dirty South.” Jermaine Dupri, whose lyrics are featured above, is one of the central figures of this brand. The term “dirty” refers to the style of beats, slow and extended with deep bass tones. With these deep bass tones comes a variety of dance movements where the bodies in gender-spaces come into contact and get “dirty.” The moments of contact synchronize with the rhythmic flow to highlight sexual tones. The Southern flavor of hip-stretches across New Orleans, Houston, Nashville, Memphis,...

  9. 5 Breaking the Cycle: The Ballplayer Posture and Performances of Exclusion
    (pp. 171-202)

    After a night out at Club Opera, Mahmoud, Mustafa, and I ended up at the Waffle House, a 24-Southern eatery. Shortly after we ordered our food, a group of four or five African American men came in with boisterous laughs. They sat in a corner booth to the left of us. All the other patrons shifted their attention to them, including the three of us. These African American men seemed to me to be gay. A few of them swayed their hips as they walked in, and two of them wore brightly colored bandanas on their heads. One young man...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 203-218)

    South Asian American men use sporting cultures as one way to negotiate, challenge, and reconfigure their racialized masculinity. Within exclusive basketball spaces, through acts of browning out, the young men are able to man up in ways that invert dominant stereotypes of them. Basketball provides an interesting and accessible venue in which to perform masculinity while claiming belonging in both the diasporic and national fabric. The interplay of people, symbols, and institutions in the strategy of browning out to man up unpacks meanings and engagement with power that are pertinent to understanding South Asian American life and the contours of...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 219-234)
    (pp. 235-256)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 257-266)
    (pp. 267-267)