South Asian American Identity in Literature Analysis

Categorization

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Categorizing Asian American literature into tidy ethnic groups is problematic. The breadth, variety, and complexity of Asian cultures defy easy categorization. India is a country two-thirds the size of the United States. It is divided into twenty-three states and several federal territories. Each state has cultural, social, linguistic, historical, geographical, and culinary characteristics that are unique. It is almost impossible to talk about an Asian Indian experience because such a discussion lends itself to generalities that are not applicable to the entire nation. Similarly, organizing the multicultural nations of Asia into neat compartments for the convenience of Western audiences has given rise to severe criticism from Asian scholars and thinkers. They argue that pigeonholing vastly different people into patterns that are convenient for the West is another way of dominating and controlling other peoples.

For example, those belonging to the South Asian American category include peoples of different religious, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldive Islands. Individuals of Asian Indian origin living in America are generally referred to as South Asian Americans. The term “Indian Americans” tends to be avoided because it gives rise to confusion with Native Americans, who are referred to as American Indians.