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Race, Religion, and Political Mobilization: South Asians in the Post-9/11 United States


  • Sangay Mishra

    1. Drew University
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    • Sangay Mishra is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Drew University in New Jersey. Before joining Drew University, he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Lehigh University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He specializes in American politics and comparative immigration with a focus on racial and ethnic politics and specifically studies the political behaviour of racial and religious minority groups. He is currently finalizing a book manuscript tentatively titled Desis Divided: Political Incorporation of South Asian Americans (under contract with the University of Minnesota Press). His current research project focuses on the emerging patterns of interaction between Muslim communities and the law enforcement agencies in the post-9/11 period in Southern California and the New York metropolitan area.


In the days and months following 11 September 2001, South Asians in the United States were lumped together and racialized as ‘outsiders’ and ‘threatening’. The lumping of South Asians existed alongside their differential targeting based on particular religious identities such as Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. The religious identity not only shaped and calibrated the racial hostility against different South Asian groups but also framed their responses to racial attacks. The primacy of religious identities in framing the group response to racial hostility made it difficult to build broader panethnic solidarity, thereby challenging the existing understanding of the dynamics of panethnic identity formation and mobilization. The foregrounding of religious identity by different South Asian groups was, in fact, in broad consonance with the multicultural institutional and ideological framework that provides institutional and discursive avenues for the deployment of exclusive and immutable identities.