Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11


Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 13 illustrations Published: May 2009

American Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian American Studies

In Missing, Sunaina Marr Maira explores how young South Asian Muslim immigrants living in the United States experienced and understood national belonging (or exclusion) at a particular moment in the history of U.S. imperialism: in the years immediately following September 11, 2001. Drawing on ethnographic research in a New England high school, Maira investigates the cultural dimensions of citizenship for South Asian Muslim students and their relationship to the state in the everyday contexts of education, labor, leisure, dissent, betrayal, and loss. The narratives of the mostly working-class youth she focuses on demonstrate how cultural citizenship is produced in school, at home, at work, and in popular culture. Maira examines how young South Asian Muslims made sense of the political and historical forces shaping their lives and developed their own forms of political critique and modes of dissent, which she links both to their experiences following September 11, 2001, and to a longer history of regimes of surveillance and repression in the United States.

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.


Missing offers a poignant insider perspective of how South Asian Muslim and non-Muslim youth after 9/11 were impacted by overlapping and interconnected issues and topics. . . . Insight provided via narrative interviews and participant observation . . . is enlightening, refreshing, and contributes greatly to the growing body of scholastic knowledge on South Asian studies.” — Michelle Kaye Malsbury, BookPleasures.com

“[T]imely, illuminating, and politically engaged. . . . Maira presents a picture of the confusion and contradictions in young people’s lives as they try to negotiate adulthood and citizenship. . . . The author captures this complexity very well, and it is a great strength of the book that she teases out the multiple meanings of economic, cultural, and social citizenship and the different paths that young people take trying to attain some or all of these.” — Heather Montgomery, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Sunaina Maira has written a passionate, politically engaged, and ambitious book . . . [that] offers a well-argued analysis of immensely important political issues and compelling discussions of current theoretical work on these issues.”
— Karen Leonard, American Ethnologist

“This is a serious study on the contradictions of citizenship rights within an imperial homeland. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.” — A. Mahdi, Choice

Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11 is a timely and important contribution to study of life in the post–9/11 United States for Muslim, South Asian, and Arab communities, in general, and for Muslim immigrant youth in a New England high school, in particular. Engaging deeply and comprehensively with theories of empire, race, and cultural citizenship, the author uses richly textured ethnographic material drawn from school, work, home, and protests to chart the different practices and meaning of cultural citizenship in the everyday lives of young people here and in the countries their parents left behind.” — Susan Terrio, American Anthropologist

“[Missing] provides rich mining grounds to scholars from fields as wide as postcolonialism, cultural studies, sociology and history. In that sense, despite its socio-anthropologically empirical structure, it is a trans-disciplinary book. . . . This is a brave, honest and necessary study.”
— Tabish Khair, South Asian Diaspora

“Basing her analysis on ethnographic research, the author captures the sense of disappointment and bewilderment of her informants caught in a double bind while trying to construct an identity that would make them feel secure in the turmoil of this post-911 world. Maira interprets individual representations in light of policy and macro analysis of empire. She shows how nation-state policies influence individual lives in a way that contributes much to the confusion about status and rights experienced by South Asian immigrant Muslim youth.” — Ibrahim G. Aoudé, Teachers College Record

“Maira’s book Missing is a beautifully written analysis, dense with theory and facts. . . . I predict that Maira’s unique study will come to influence many researchers in their ethnic studies.“ — Hedvig Ekerwald, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“There are no easy answers in Missing, but Maira offers a nuanced language for understanding what citizenship and dissent mean to these young people during the War on Terror. . . . Missing is impressive for the depth of its analysis of the lives of South Asian Muslim immigrant youth. . . .” — Matt Delmont, American Quarterly

“How is national belonging experienced by South Asian teenagers in post-9/11 America? In a deeply thoughtful and compassionate ethnography, Sunaina Marr Maira explores this question, providing one of the most compelling analyses of citizenship in contemporary America. She introduces us to young people who worry about deportation, racism, and the challenges of schooling in another language, but who also possess an acute analysis of imperialism and are capable of forging a transnational community united as much by Bollywood as by their sudden elevation to Public Enemy Number 1. Maira’s stunning achievement is to give vivid content to state power, providing an up close and personal look at how it is lived and resisted by those whom we relentless evict from political community.” — Sherene H. Razack, author of Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics

“Sunaina Marr Maira has authored one of the most important books of our time. Missing is a carefully researched and beautifully written account of the experiences, ideas, and opinions of South Asian Muslim immigrant children in the United States who find themselves deemed enemies of the state through no fault of their own in the aftermath of 9/11. Through a deft blend of ethnography and cultural critique, Maira demonstrates how the expanding reach and power of the nation-state overseas leads to new forms of disciplinary control at home: in schools, workplaces, media imagery, and immigration law.” — George Lipsitz, author of Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. South Asian Muslim Youth in the United States after 9/11 1

1. Imperial Feelings: U.S. Empire and the War on Terror 37

2. Cultural Citizenship 76

3. Transnational Citizenship: Flexibility and Control 95

4. Economies of Citizenship: Work, Play, and Polyculturalism 128

5. Dissenting Citizenship: Orientalisms, Feminisms, and Dissenting Feelings 190

6. Missing: Fear, Complicity, and Solidarity 258

Appendix. A Note on Methods 291

Notes 293

Bibliography 305

Index 329
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4409-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4391-2
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