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

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0822343158
ISBN-10: 0822343150
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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


“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


“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

About the Author

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (October 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822343150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822343158
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #780,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
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. "In one sense, Desi Land resembles Disneyland, a constructed space of imagination and wonder ... On another level, Desi Land is reminiscent of Dixieland, a place of tremendous creativity and talent but also deep-seated racism and prejudice in the American South."

Shankar's ethnography of teenagers living in and around Fremont, Calif., is a sympathetic portrait of boys and girls attempting to construct their own reality from homes that carry forward identity expectations from India, Pakistan, Fiji, or Bangladesh. Outside these homes, she takes the reader to shopping malls where consumption defines success, and to schools that assume that all Indian students are part of an academic model minority.

"California, Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From" is the title of the opening chapter, in which psychological, social, economic, and geographic context is established. While the hilly landscape of the Bay Area has remained constant, "over the span of a century, desis have moved up in status, from being undesirable, racially non-White immigrants to sought after residents whose ambiguous racial status skews closer to White." In large part, this shift parallels the Valley's transformation from the "Prune Capital" to the "High-Tech Capital."

Many successful Northern Californians will relate to quotes such as, "It's so cool how we live in Silicon Valley--we control the world!
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Format: Paperback
DesiLand is a great work by Salani Shankar. She spent time between 1999-2001 in Silicon Valley-an area with a rapidly growing South Asian population. She spends time with a variety of South Asians. They differ in areas such as economic standing from people working from security guards to executives. This paints a broader picture of South Asians in Silicon Valley who are often viewed solely as Engineers and IT professionals. She looks at people who migrated directly from South Asia as well as Fiji-Indians. This can affect their ethnic identity. Religion is also discussed, looking at how religion (whether it be Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism or Christianity) affects people. Muslims are often shown as being the most conservative (such as the treatment of daughters-not being allowed to go to a high school prom...). Muslims are also shown as being the most affected by 9/11.

A large chuck of the book is devoted to second generation and 1.5 generation (those who moved to the US while growing up). The book discusses how they interact with various social circles such as various peers of school, the larger Indian community... It also shows how they adjust to life after high school, such where they go to college and their attitudes towards arranged marriages.
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Format: Paperback
This book is interesting, thought-provoking, and incredibly accessible. Shankar draws on extended fieldwork to depict the lives of Desi teens in vivid terms. she explores important issues of immigration and diaspora, language use, multiculturalism, and the difficulties faced by youth who find themselves with a range of choices about how to go about being Desi in the US today.
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