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  • Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley

    Author(s): Shalini Shankar
    Published: 2008
    Pages: 264
  • Paperback: $23.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4315-8
  • Cloth: $84.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4300-4
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  • Preface and Acknowledgments  vii
    Introduction: Welcome to Desi Land  1
    1. California, Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From  25
    2. Defining Desi Teen Culture  53
    3. Living and Desiring Desi Bling Life  80
    4. Desi Fashions of Speaking  100
    5. Being FOBulous on Multicultural Day  119
    6. Remodeling the Model Minority Stereotype  142
    7. Dating on the DL and Arranged Marriages  167
    8. In the New Millennium  193
    Postscript  211
    Appendix 1: Student Interview  213
    Appendix 2: Faculty Interview  218
    Appendix 3: Parent and Relative Interview  220
    Appendix 4: Student Survey  223
    Notes  225
    Glossary of Hindi and Punjabi Terms  237
    Bibliography  239
    Index  263
  • “With Desi Land, Shankar has succeeded in presenting a well-researched, well-executed ethnography that captures an American experience that will benefit Asian American Studies and beyond.” — Rupa Pillai, Southwest Journal of Cultures

    “Magic happens when a work from academia transcends the straitjacket of social science jargon and floats across the page like literature: the characters are given life; the setting is vividly rendered; and the dialogue is memorably fresh. Shalini Shankar pulls her rabbit out of the Silicon Valley hat she calls Desi Land.” — Rajesh C. Oza, India Currents

    “This is a really enjoyable and instructive read, highly recommended.”
    Kiran Morjaria, South Asia Research

    “Using a lively, lucid style, Shankar draws on her field work to discuss how desi youth fashion race, class, and gender identities. . . . What is striking about the book is its discussion of a group that is a hyper odel minority, particularly at this moment and in this region, and that constructs its identity in relation to notions of the American Dream and mythologies of unlimited growth and expanding possibilities that obscure racial and class inequality.” — Sunaina Maira, Contemporary Sociology

    “Shankar’s book is a compelling and intelligently mediated ethnographic study of Desi teen culture and their families who made their homes in famous Silicon Valley in California during the high-tech boom of the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. . . . It is not easy to do justice to Shankar's insightful and compelling read of Desi land. More than a description of Desi lives in Silicon Valley, the book is an astute analysis of the ways in which the quotidian becomes enmeshed in the larger societal and cultural issues around identity, belonging and the politics of place.” — Vivienne Muller, M/C Reviews

    “[A] fascinating look at South Asian American youth culture at a pivotal moment in modern American history. . . . The highly particular nature of this book belies its richness; Shankar delves deeply into the interplay of race, class, gender and social status. . . . This book’s vibrancy and immediacy, even a decade later, make it an absorbing read for anyone interested in cultural studies.” — Jennifer Wedemeier, Feminist Review blog

    Desi Land is a rewarding read. Shankar deftly weaves teen narratives
    and theoretical analysis to present a compelling and spirited portrait of youth in a time of transition. By bringing the study of pragmatics to bear on sociolinguistic concerns with style and identity in an ethnography of material culture, her monograph attends to processes of ‘diasporization’ in sites of settlement, thus adding to recent attempts to remake diaspora studies. . . . Written in an accessible and engaging tone, Desi Land delivers a useful contribution to a linguistic anthropology of education that should appeal to undergraduates and scholars of globalization, multilingualism, race, class and diaspora.” — Kitana Ananda, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

    Desi Land offers important insights into a community and a generation in transition. . . . Shankar’s study provides an important corrective to the overidealised ‘American (Desi) Dream’ while recognising too its enduring power and promise for successive generations.” — Claire Alexander, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

    Reviews

  • “With Desi Land, Shankar has succeeded in presenting a well-researched, well-executed ethnography that captures an American experience that will benefit Asian American Studies and beyond.” — Rupa Pillai, Southwest Journal of Cultures

    “Magic happens when a work from academia transcends the straitjacket of social science jargon and floats across the page like literature: the characters are given life; the setting is vividly rendered; and the dialogue is memorably fresh. Shalini Shankar pulls her rabbit out of the Silicon Valley hat she calls Desi Land.” — Rajesh C. Oza, India Currents

    “This is a really enjoyable and instructive read, highly recommended.”
    Kiran Morjaria, South Asia Research

    “Using a lively, lucid style, Shankar draws on her field work to discuss how desi youth fashion race, class, and gender identities. . . . What is striking about the book is its discussion of a group that is a hyper odel minority, particularly at this moment and in this region, and that constructs its identity in relation to notions of the American Dream and mythologies of unlimited growth and expanding possibilities that obscure racial and class inequality.” — Sunaina Maira, Contemporary Sociology

    “Shankar’s book is a compelling and intelligently mediated ethnographic study of Desi teen culture and their families who made their homes in famous Silicon Valley in California during the high-tech boom of the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. . . . It is not easy to do justice to Shankar's insightful and compelling read of Desi land. More than a description of Desi lives in Silicon Valley, the book is an astute analysis of the ways in which the quotidian becomes enmeshed in the larger societal and cultural issues around identity, belonging and the politics of place.” — Vivienne Muller, M/C Reviews

    “[A] fascinating look at South Asian American youth culture at a pivotal moment in modern American history. . . . The highly particular nature of this book belies its richness; Shankar delves deeply into the interplay of race, class, gender and social status. . . . This book’s vibrancy and immediacy, even a decade later, make it an absorbing read for anyone interested in cultural studies.” — Jennifer Wedemeier, Feminist Review blog

    Desi Land is a rewarding read. Shankar deftly weaves teen narratives
    and theoretical analysis to present a compelling and spirited portrait of youth in a time of transition. By bringing the study of pragmatics to bear on sociolinguistic concerns with style and identity in an ethnography of material culture, her monograph attends to processes of ‘diasporization’ in sites of settlement, thus adding to recent attempts to remake diaspora studies. . . . Written in an accessible and engaging tone, Desi Land delivers a useful contribution to a linguistic anthropology of education that should appeal to undergraduates and scholars of globalization, multilingualism, race, class and diaspora.” — Kitana Ananda, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

    Desi Land offers important insights into a community and a generation in transition. . . . Shankar’s study provides an important corrective to the overidealised ‘American (Desi) Dream’ while recognising too its enduring power and promise for successive generations.” — Claire Alexander, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

  • “An excellent, ethnographically rich study of the lives and practices of young South Asian Americans living in Silicon Valley, Desi Land lends itself to use in courses in fields including anthropology, cultural studies, gender studies, and Asian American studies. What I like best of all is that Shalini Shankar trains her lens on a particular generation’s experience while providing us with a rich cultural history of life in Silicon Valley at the turn of the twenty-first century.”—Purnima Mankekar, author of Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India

    “Shalini Shankar’s Desi Land is a loving portrait of young people trying their best to fashion culture and life in jobless America. Thick description and rich analysis of young Desis is an eye-opener, whether you’re wearing your mad tight color contacts or not.”—Vijay Prashad, author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World

    “In this exciting book, Shalini Shankar writes about Desi teens in Silicon Valley with deep sympathy, humor, and genuine insight. The high-school students come alive through ethnographic detail, and yet Shankar’s analysis is sharp and thought provoking. Her theoretically sophisticated approach to diversity makes an important contribution to urban anthropology. I will recommend this book to everyone I know—scholars, educators, and advocates—who works with twenty-first-century youth.”—Jan English-Lueck, author of Cultures@SiliconValley

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  • Description

    Desi Land is Shalini Shankar’s lively ethnographic account of South Asian American teen culture during the Silicon Valley dot-com boom. Shankar focuses on how South Asian Americans, or “Desis,” define and manage what it means to be successful in a place brimming with the promise of technology. Between 1999 and 2001 Shankar spent many months “kickin’ it” with Desi teenagers at three Silicon Valley high schools, and she has since followed their lives and stories. The diverse high-school students who populate Desi Land are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs, from South Asia and other locations; they include first- to fourth-generation immigrants whose parents’ careers vary from assembly-line workers to engineers and CEOs. By analyzing how Desi teens’ conceptions and realizations of success are influenced by community values, cultural practices, language use, and material culture, she offers a nuanced portrait of diasporic formations in a transforming urban region.

    Whether discussing instant messaging or arranged marriages, Desi bling or the pressures of the model minority myth, Shankar foregrounds the teens’ voices, perspectives, and stories. She investigates how Desi teens interact with dialogue and songs from Bollywood films as well as how they use their heritage language in ways that inform local meanings of ethnicity while they also connect to a broader South Asian diasporic consciousness. She analyzes how teens negotiate rules about dating and reconcile them with their longer-term desire to become adult members of their communities. In Desi Land Shankar not only shows how Desi teens of different socioeconomic backgrounds are differently able to succeed in Silicon Valley schools and economies but also how such variance affects meanings of race, class, and community for South Asian Americans.

    About The Author(s)

    Shalini Shankar is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University.

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