- Paperback: 290 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (June 14, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520218175
- ISBN-13: 978-0520218178
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Passport Photos 0th Edition
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"An unusual look at migration to a far country, presented in the form of a forged passport. Very post-modern, this study of Indian emigres is both offbeat and endearing."--Outlook India
From the Inside Flap
"Amitava Kumar brings his talents as a photographer, poet, scriptwriter, and journalist to the job of critical commentary, refusing to partition and delegate these skills to separate provinces of his intellectual life. The result is an ethical voice and a technical style that often defies our expectations of the critical commentator. I find that voice and style immensely appealing, no more so than in the multi-genre documentary work of Passport Photos. This is not a heavy-handed screed on the conditions of immigrants. It is a sensuous guide to the common contradictions and experiences faced by immigrants to the U.S., whether they are coming from the underside of the international division of labor or from well-heeled and credentialed birthrights. An undeniably original contribution to several academic and journalistic fields, Passport Photos will, I expect, be a widely-acclaimed publication and much cited as a fresh paradigm-shaker."Andrew Ross, author of The Celebration Chronicles
"An important, timely, and unique book that seems to have multiple lines of descent--as if postcolonial theory were cross-pollinated with poetry, photojournalism, and memoir all at once."Michael Bérubé, author of Life As We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child
"Amitava Kumar is the most grounded of the postcolonial writers today. Passport Photos is a brilliant illustration of his skills. A must read for anybody interested in immigration, transnational identities, and globalization."Manthia Diawara, author of In Search of Africa
"Passport Photos is a meditation on the modalities of the immigrant: on language as law and record of living immigrant dailiness; on place as a world one loses that gives rise to identity and belonging; on knowledge as the possession of some and not others, as what the immigrant can be but cannot have." Lisa Lowe, author of Immigrant Acts
Top Customer Reviews
The book also works because of an extremely inventive structure. Using the information structure of the passport, a document "that chooses to tell a story about us", Kumar writes an alternative story of such terms as "Name", Photograph", Place of Birth", "Date of Birth", "Nationality", "Sex", "Profession" and "Identifying Marks". In his discussion of names, for instance, Kumar explores how members of the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean ended up with names like "Chris Garcia", refracting their identities through Venezuelan birth certificates to appease bureaucratic border-keepers. He provides a delightful litany of stereotypes to which South Asian immigrants are subjected - "every time an American shakes my hand, he or she has to pledge their love for Indian food, and I can't even say I thank you - on behalf of Indian food". What is the date of the immigrant's birth? For some, it may be the moment when staying back in the homeland was not an option any more. The forced migrations of post-partition India and Pakistan, the moments of communal riots in Bombay and Bhiwandi, the dismemberment of diasporic Indians from Uganda, all these wrenching moments are sensitively laid out. Kumar depicts the hopelessly fragmented nationality of the immigrant in a series of photographs of Kashmir. He also talks about the way in which multinational corporations compete for our identity as nations once did ("I have lost India. You have lost Pakistan. We are now citizens of General Electric"). These corporations bring the promise of progress to the third world, but unleash primordial oppressions (like the ultrasonographs that are used in the hinterland for fetal sex determination and female feticide). Such vignettes, pieces of analysis, poetry, pictures, quotes and wit characterize this book, which ultimately fulfils its promise as a forged passport, which exposes the document's cruelty, its arbitrariness, its truncations, its caprice, and above all, its profound silliness. Passports will never appear the same to me, after Kumar's exposé.
The South Asian Journalists Association organized a reading by Kumar at the Brecht Forum. I enjoyed the reading immensely, and when I read the book, I saw that book was also a performance -- which brought together the world of academia, art, and journalism.