Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Sun Never Sets

The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power

Vivek Bald
Miabi Chatterji
Sujani Reddy
Manu Vimalassery
With an Afterword by Vijay Prashad
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 392
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Sun Never Sets
    Book Description:

    The Sun Never Sets collects the work of a generation of scholars who are enacting a shift in the orientation of the field of South Asian American studies which has, until recently, largely centered on literary and cultural analyses of an affluent immigrant population. The contributors focus instead on the histories and political economy of South Asian migration to the U.S. - and upon the lives, work, and activism of specific, often unacknowledged, migrant populations - presenting a more comprehensive vision of the South Asian presence in the United States. Tracking the shifts in global power that have influenced the paths and experiences of migrants, from expatriate Indian maritime workers at the turn of the century, to Indian nurses during the Cold War, to post-9/11 detainees and deportees caught in the crossfire of the War on Terror, these essays reveal how the South Asian diaspora has been shaped by the contours of U.S. imperialism. Driven by a shared sense of responsibility among the contributing scholars to alter the profile of South Asian migrants in the American public imagination, they address the key issues that impact these migrants in the U.S., on the subcontinent, and in circuits of the transnational economy. Taken together, these essays provide tools with which to understand the contemporary political and economic conjuncture and the place of South Asian migrants within it.Vivek Baldis Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America.Miabi Chatterjireceived her PhD from New York University in American Studies. She serves on the Board of Directors of the RESIST Foundation and works with non-profit organizations such as NYUFASP, a group of NYU faculty working for shared governance at their institution.Sujani Reddyis Five College Assistant Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies in the Department of American Studies at Amherst College.Manu Vimalasseryis Assistant Professor of History at Texas Tech University.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8645-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In her paintingVanwyck Blvd(2005), visual artist Asma Ahmed Shikoh subtly reworks the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s iconic subway map. From afar, viewers might recognize the muted blue, gray, and yellow representation of the city, with boldly colored subway lines coursing like arteries through Manhattan and connecting it to the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Stepping closer, they will find that every piece of text across the five boroughs, including place-names, subway stops, and the map’s key, has been rendered into Urdu, connecting this image as much to Pakistan and Northern India as to New York. New...


    • 1 Intimate Dependency, Race, and Trans-Imperial Migration
      (pp. 25-49)

      In 1907, seventeen-year-old Jawala Singh left his bride to the care of his father and uncle’s joint household and traveled by rail with his cousin Punu Singh from his village in Punjab to Calcutta.¹ In Calcutta, Jawala and Punu booked passage and set sail for Hong Kong, sidestepping U.S. consular agents, who discouraged Punjabi laborers from journeying to the United States, and British colonial officials, who regulated the emigration of indentured laborers. After living at the Hong Kong gurudwara for several weeks and working at the docks and warehouses, they bought tickets for a ship bound for Honolulu and San...

    • 2 Repressing the “Hindu Menace”: Race, Anarchy, and Indian Anticolonialism
      (pp. 50-74)

      When immigration inspectors in San Francisco arrested the prominent Indian radical Har Dayal on March 25, 1914, as an “undesirable alien” whose alleged adherence to anarchist doctrines meant that he was in the United States in violation of immigration laws, Dayal promptly stated that his arrest was not an “immigration case” but a “political question.” Dayal believed that he was being targeted by U.S. officials, whom he accused of complying with the requests of British imperial authorities, because of his role “as one of the most active and determined leaders of the revolutionary movement in northern India.”² Dayal was an...

    • 3 Desertion and Sedition: Indian Seamen, Onshore Labor, and Expatriate Radicalism in New York and Detroit, 1914–1930
      (pp. 75-102)

      Over the summer months of 1927, the New York–based magazineAsiapublished a three-part autobiographical essay by the expatriate Indian nationalist Sailendranath Ghose. Ghose was well known to many American readers by this time. A decade earlier, his name had been splashed across U.S. newspapers when he and dozens of other Indians were rounded up in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and charged as part of the “Hindu-German Conspiracy”—a case in which he and his codefendants were accused of working with enemy German agents to smuggle arms through the United States to India to support an armed...

    • 4 “The Hidden Hand”: Remapping Indian Nurse Immigration to the United States
      (pp. 103-124)

      These are the impassioned words of Kumari Lakshmi Devi, the TNAI’s first general secretary of Indian origin and the editor of its signature publication, theNursing Journal of India. Devi addresses herself here to Virginia Arnold, assistant director for medical education at the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). The year was 1959, and Devi had just returned from an RF-sponsored tour of nursing programs and professional organizations around the world—beginning with a brief stop in London before moving on through the continental United States, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Honolulu, and Manila.² After the Philippines, Devi used her around-the-world ticket to continue...


    • 5 Putting “the Family” to Work: Managerial Discourses of Control in the Immigrant Service Sector
      (pp. 127-155)

      One blustery December evening in 2007, I went to a small Indian restaurant in Manhattan’s “Curry Hill” neighborhood. This small neighborhood centered around Lexington Avenue is home to South Asian restaurants, grocery stores, clothing shops, and other immigrant-oriented businesses. That evening, I was speaking to four restaurant managers, men in their thirties and forties, all migrants from India, who currently run businesses in New York and New Jersey. All four have run ventures in South Asian commercial enclaves in the New York metropolitan area, from Jersey City to Curry Hill to Jackson Heights, Queens. While the manager of our host...

    • 6 Looking Home: Gender, Work, and the Domestic in Theorizations of the South Asian Diaspora
      (pp. 156-175)

      After a general meeting at the Worker’s Awaaz office, Bala, a live-in domestic worker, approached Mona, a young lawyer who specialized in U.S. immigration law, and excitedly announced, “Meine LIFE Act ki bari mein abhi kuch soona hai” (I just heard about the LIFE Act). The Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act of 2000 to which Bala referred offered the possibility of status adjustment to people who had been living without documentation in the United States. The particular provision that caught her attention was Section 245(i), which stated that a person in violation of immigration status could pay $1,000 and...

    • 7 India’s Global and Internal Labor Migration and Resistance: A Case Study of Hyderabad
      (pp. 176-202)

      On September 29, 2005, Indian unions waged a general strike to protest a national government plan to privatize airline, railroad, and banking industries. The strike was a blow to foreign and domestic investors who had been pushing the Congress Party–Left Front coalition government to privatize India’s transportation network. The government, however, did not waver. In January 2006, despite several such mass industry strikes, the government put forward a privatization plan for the Delhi and Bombay airports, demonstrating to international investors that they were serious about opening the country to foreign capital. The privatization plan did not include provisions for...

    • 8 Water for Life, Not for Coca-Cola: Transnational Systems of Capital and Activism
      (pp. 203-228)

      Over the last decade, several rural communities around Coca-Cola plants exploded in protest against the company’s exploitation of groundwater in the production of bottled drinks amid a growing national crisis of water scarcity. As demonstrated in the vibrant ongoing struggle in Mehndiganj, Uttar Pradesh, these mobilizations articulated a powerful critique of corporate globalization and Indian neoliberalism, illuminating the dispossession of the resources of the rural poor for consumption by those on the other side of a widening economic divide in the nation’s vaunted new freer marketplace. After local political and economic elites failed to respond to these resource struggles, activists...

    • 9 When an Interpreter Could Not Be Found
      (pp. 229-248)

      The Visible Collective was a coalition of artists, educators, and legal activists exploring contested migrant identities, including religion as an externally imposed, imperfect proxy for ethnicity, within the context of post-2001 security panic. The collective’s first projects (Casual Fresh American Style and Nahnu Wahaad, but really are we one?) were part of the group show Fatal Love:South Asian American Art Now(2005) at the Queens Museum of Art in New York. Curated by Jaishri Abhichandani and Prerana Reddy,Fatal Lovewas a response (and perhaps rebuke) to the narrow framing of the India-centric, “blockbuster” showEdge of Desire, premiering...


    • 10 Intertwined Violence: Implications of State Responses to Domestic Violence in South Asian Immigrant Communities
      (pp. 251-273)

      Over the past twenty-five years, South Asian communities in the United States have responded to the issue of domestic violence. Manavi, the first SAWO in the United States to explicitly grapple with gender-based violence against South Asian women,² was founded in 1985. Since then, more than twenty-five formal organizations,³ and countless informal configurations, have emerged to work against domestic violence in the South Asian community. These groups generally work from a platform that articulates culturally specific needs of South Asian women experiencing domestic violence. To do so, SAWOs implement multipronged strategies such as providing supportive services to survivors, conducting educational...

    • 11 Who’s Your Daddy?: Queer Diasporic Framings of the Region
      (pp. 274-300)

      This essay is part of an ongoing project of thinking through the uses of the region in producing new forms of queer scholarship. As such it is broadly concerned with the relation between queer studies, diaspora studies, and area studies; I explore the possibilities for a comparative queer studies project that is routed and rooted in and through each of these fields. The notion of the region, I suggest, may be a way of troubling the boundaries and presumptions of these bodies of knowledge and can offer us a particularly productive spatial metaphor to map sexual topographies in this transnational...

    • 12 Awaiting the Twelfth Imam in the United States: South Asian Shia Immigrants and the Fragmented American Dream
      (pp. 301-324)

      On September 11, 2007, the phone in our house rang too early to bear any good news. On the line was Kulsoom, the daughter of Kazim Bhai and Batool Aapa,¹ friends from Jersey City. Apparently, as they had slept in their illegally sublet basement, their landlord had been awakened by members of the Department of Homeland Security, who had demanded to know who else was living in the house. The petrified landlord had led them to the basement. The officers had asked the entire family to produce proof that they were legal residents of the United States. Only Kulsoom, who...

    • 13 Tracing the Muslim Body: Race, U.S. Deportation, and Pakistani Return Migration
      (pp. 325-349)

      After September 11, 2001, New York City became a different place. There was tragedy and sorrow in the air, but also fear and intimidation. Spreading with the swiftness of wildfire, a reign of domestic terror that targeted Muslim Americans and those who appeared Muslim inaugurated a twenty-first-century racial order. Responding to the hyperpatriotism that followed 9/11 and the immediate dangers confronting those in the service economy, working-class immigrants prominently placed American flags in their workplaces. As hate crimes escalated in the several months after 9/11, racial violence became routinized for a broad group of South Asians, Arabs, and Muslims.¹ The...

    • 14 Antecedents of Imperial Incarceration: Fort Marion to Guantánamo
      (pp. 350-374)

      Three months after invading Afghanistan, the United States opened a prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where it would eventually imprison about 550 men arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan under pretext of association with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.¹ Too often, the architecture of the “War on Terror” has been described as “unprecedented,” effacing continuities in U.S. imperialism, and foreclosing visions of a broad program of decolonization and liberation. Working against this mold, this essay looks to a history of imperial prisons to find precedents for the U.S. “War on Terror.” Drawing on Anne McClintock’s evocation of imperial déjà vu,...

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 375-380)

    On a snowy evening in December 1994, I got some good news. My PhD done, I was working as a community organizer at Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) in Providence, Rhode Island. It was fantastic work, giving me an opportunity to join the contingent classes of late twentieth-century America in some of our fiercest fights. Police brutality was high on the agenda, but so too was the attempt by home day care providers for union cover. But it was also tiring work, with little time left in the day for reading. I missed the solitary timelessness of reading...

  9. Index
    (pp. 381-392)
  10. About the Contributors
    (pp. 393-396)