India(ns) on Display, or the Politics of Museumizing Minorities
“India(ns) on Display” undertakes a close reading of the Smithsonian exhibit, “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation,” opening February 2014 at the National Museum of Natural History. How, I ask, does the exhibit interpellate Indian Americans as “ambassadors of culture”? What Indias are being deployed, imagined, and even perverted in this moment of U.S.-based institutionalization? And how do we come to terms with the official-national museumization of gendered and racialized subjects, especially when it is couched as a celebration of their putative achievements? I situate the exhibit in relation to earlier examples of pedagogic memorialization and institutional formation as well as the discourses on the model minority and the returnee. This research is part of my dissertation on the cultural production of and response to the arrival of “global India,” in which I read texts that evidence authorial practices of adoption, adaptation, translation, and mediation across languages and systems of signification. My goal is to identify the dominant ideological paradigms and aspirations that undergird efforts to make India available to the United States and the world as a resource to be known, transacted, and, in this case, museumized.