Bringing grounded ethnographic analysis to the critique of U.S. empire, Maira teases out the ways that imperial power affects the everyday lives of young immigrants in the United States. She illuminates the paradoxes of national belonging, exclusion, alienation, and political expression facing a generation of Muslim youth coming of age at this particular moment. She also sheds new light on larger questions about civil rights, globalization, and U.S. foreign policy. Maira demonstrates that a particular subjectivity, the “imperial feeling” of the present historical moment, is linked not just to issues of war and terrorism but also to migration and work, popular culture and global media, family and belonging.
Sunaina Marr Maira is Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Desis in the House: Indian American Culture in New York City and a co-editor of Youthscapes: The Popular, the National, the Global.
Since the attacks of 9/11, the banner of national security has led to intense monitoring of the politics of Muslim and Arab Americans. Young people from these communities have come of age in a time when the question of political engagement is both urgent and fraught.
In The 9/11 Generation, Sunaina Marr Maira uses extensive ethnography to understand the meaning of political subjecthood and mobilization for Arab, South Asian, and Afghan American youth. Maira explores how young people from communities targeted in the War on Terror engage with the “political,” forging coalitions based on new racial and ethnic categories, even while they are under constant scrutiny and surveillance, and organizing around notions of civil rights and human rights. The 9/11 Generation explores the possibilities and pitfalls of rights-based organizing at a moment when the vocabulary of rights and democracy has been used to justify imperial interventions, such as the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maira further reconsiders political solidarity in cross-racial and interfaith alliances at a time when U.S. nationalism is understood as not just multicultural but also post-racial. Throughout, she weaves stories of post-9/11 youth activism through key debates about neoliberal democracy, the “radicalization” of Muslim youth, gender, and humanitarianism.
The term "youthscapes" places local youth practices within the context of ongoing shifts in national and global forces. Using this framework, the book revitalizes discussions about youth cultures and social movements, while simultaneously reflecting on the uses of youth as an academic and political category. Tracing young people's movements across physical and imagined spaces, the authors examine various cases of young people as they participate in social relations; use and invent technology; earn, spend, need, and despise money; comprise target markets while producing their own original media; and create their own understandings of citizenship. The essays examine young Thai women working in the transnational beauty industry, former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Latino youth using graphic art in political organizing, a Sri Lankan refugee's fan relationship with Jackie Chan, and Somali high school students in the United States and Canada. Drawing on methodologies and frameworks from multiple fields, such as anthropology, sociology, and film studies, the volume is useful to those studying and teaching issues of youth culture, popular culture, globalization, social movements, education, and media.
By focusing on the intersection between globalization studies and youth culture, the authors offer a vital contribution to the development of a new, interdisciplinary approach to youth culture studies.