chapter  18
“We’re 80 percent more patriotic”: Atlanta’s Muslim South Asian Americans and cultural citizenship
ByStanley Thangaraj
Pages 11

Ali’s celebration of July 4th and consequent identifi cation of that date as meaningful represents one set of practices of cultural citizenship. For him and his South Asian American peers, their quotidian performances of self were woven into renditions of American-ness. They did not doubt their American-ness. However, South Asians Americans are often commonly understood as “perpetual foreigners” (Lowe 1996) without the requisite cultural attributes, ability, or bodily constitution for U.S. citizenship. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the “racial formation” (Omi and Winant 1994) of South Asians as “Hindoos” through immigrations laws and policies projected these Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims as unsuitable for citizenship because of their phenotype, culture, biological makeup, and “lewd” tendencies (see HaneyLopez 1994; Koshy 2007). As agrarian workers, their lower-class status and their racialization as non-normative men prevented social mobility as well as access to key resources-such as owning land. Increasing nativist sentiment stemmed immigration from South Asia till the 1965 Immigration Act that opened U.S. borders to South Asian professionals in an attempt to combat the U.S.S.R. at the height of the Cold War (see Bhatia 2007; George 2005; Prashad 2000). The professionals were interpellated as the “model minority” who were seen as culturally profi cient and with the work ethic to succeed. Such a racialized moniker positioned these South Asians, as well as other Asian Americans, as good minorities in contrast to African Americans and Latinas/os who, at the height of the civil rights movement, were feminized

because they were deemed as depending on governmental aid. Even though these professionals were brought in to supplement the U.S. imperial machinery, the “model minority” discourse did not grant absolute entry into American-ness as they were seen as failing to achieve normative white masculinity.