SOUTH ASIAN is a term that encompasses people who largely come from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Kashmir, Tibet, the Maldives, Fiji, the Caribbean, and beyond. It’s a term that encompasses people of diverse caste, class, gender, sexual, religious, and ethnic identities.
But the way the term is used in mainstream American society – by both non-South Asian and South Asian folk – often simplifies this rich diversity of identities and histories, and presents the South Asian American community as a monolith, where the term becomes synonymous with Indian and Hindu. This act of erasure also promotes casteism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, classism, colorism, anti-Blackness, and ableism in our communities.
The intent of South Asian Memory Work is to explore the expansiveness and complexity of South Asian identity by centering the memories and lived experiences of South Asian Americans whose histories and intersecting identities have been erased, and continues to be erased in a mainstream context. By recounting and recording these lived experiences, we can start to visualise a collective future. It should be noted that not everyone who comes from the regions mentioned above identifies as South Asian. The project strongly believes that this term should be never be imposed, and that we should always defer to how people choose to self-identify.
South Asian Memory Work fully recognises that it does not – and cannot – capture every nuance of South Asian American identity, but it hopes to be a start for how we can approach these conversations: where we empower people to self-identity, where we acknowledge and ponder the ways in which our positions of privilege influence our lives and other people’s, and where we hold space for people’s lived experiences, realities, and memories.
This is an ongoing project.