Fashioning Diaspora : Beauty, Femininity, and South Asian American Culture

Vanita Reddy

In her insightful study, Fashioning Diaspora, Vanita Reddy carefully maps how transnational itineraries of Indian beauty and fashion shaped South Asian American cultural identities and racialized belonging from the 1990s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. She observes how diasporic subjects engage with and respond to various encounters with Indian beauty and fashion.

One of the first books to consider beauty and fashion as a point of entry into an examination of South Asian diasporic public cultures,Fashioning Diaspora examines a range of literature, visual art, and live performance. Through careful analyses of novels by Bharati Mukherjee and Jhumpa Lahiri, young adult literature, performance art by Shailja Patel, beauty and adornment practices, as well as objects of popular culture including an Indian American fashion doll, Reddy challenges fashion and beauty as a set of dematerialized, overly commodified cultural practices. She argues instead that beauty and fashion structure South Asian Americans’ uneven access to social mobility, capital, and citizenship, and she demonstrates their varying capacities to produce social attachments across national, class, racial, gender, and generational divides.