Going Global

Sleeping Beauty
January 8; Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center

The Russian National Ballet presents Sleeping Beauty, a well-known fairytale told through the art of dance and set to a Tchaikovsky score.
For more information, contact Wharton Center Box Office at 517-432-2000.

Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement
Dec. 2008 – March 15; MSU Museum, Heritage Gallery

This Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition profiles 24 individuals who define contemporary Latino success in the United States. The group shares their stories through both oral interviews and photographs.
For more information, contact the MSU Museum staff at pr@museum.msu.edu.

“Visual Griots: An Exhibit of Photography by African Youth”
Jan. 2009; MSU Museum, Heritage Gallery

This exhibit showcases the photographic work of Malian sixth-graders from the African villages of Damy and Kouara. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Matthew Cimitile at cimitile@msu.edu.
For more information, contact the MSU Museum staff at pr@museum.msu.edu.

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Going Global

The Irish Tenors
Dec. 7, 2008; Wharton, Cobb Center
The Irish Tenors perform standards, classic Christmas carols, and old Celtic favorites in their “Christmas in Ireland” program.
For more information, contact Bob Hoffman at (517) 432-2000,
Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement
Dec. 2008 – March 15, 2009; MSU Museum, Heritage Gallery
This Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition profiles twenty-four individuals who define contemporary Latino success in the United States. The group shares their stories through both oral interviews and photographs.
For more information, contact the MSU Museum staff at pr@museum.msu.edu.
“Visual Griots: An Exhibit of Photography by African Youth”
Dec. 2008; MSU Museum, Heritage Gallery
This exhibit showcases the photographic work of Malian sixth-graders from the African villages of Damy and Kouara. The event is free and open to the public For more information, contact Matthew Cimitile at cimitile@msu.edu.
For more information, contact the MSU Museum staff at pr@museum.msu.edu.

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Going Global

“Toward a Complete Accounting of the Carbon Footprint of First Generation Biofuels”
Thursday, November 6; 105 Manly Miles Building
Dr. Jinhua Zhao discusses his research interests, including global climate change and environmental economics.
For more information, contact lepardj@msu.edu
“Rising World Food Prices and the Political Economy of Food in Eastern and Sothern Africa”
Friday, November 7; International Center, Room 303
This lecture, another installment in the Center for Advanced Study of International Development and Women and International Development Program Friday Forum series, discusses sustainability issues and world food prices.
For more information, contact the Enviromental Science and Policy Program at espp@msu.edu
Green on the Big Screen: An Environmental Film Festival and Fair
Thursday, November 13 – Saturday, November 15; Communication Arts and Sciences Building
This environmentally-themed film festival is jointly presented by the East Lansing Film Festival, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Twenty environmental films will be presented.
For more information, contact Matthew Cimitile at cimitile@msu.edu.

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Going Global

Red Sunrise (Rojo Amanecer)
Oct. 2: Main Library, North Conference Room, W449

This 1989 film tells the story of a middle-class Mexican family accidentally involved in a 1968 Tlatelolco student revolt. The event is presented in coordination with the MSU Museum exhibit “Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement.”
For more information, contact the MSU Library staff.

American Indian Identity in American Higher Education
Oct. 16,; Kellogg Center

This combination of lectures, seminars, and conferences discusses the presence of American Indians in higher education.
For more information, contact the Native American Institute at catera@msu.edu.

Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa
Oct. 22; Wharton Center

The Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa, led by director Bamba Dembele, uses traditional African instruments and dance, fusing ancient cultural traditions with the modernity of present-day Africa. Tickets are $28, $22, or $15.

For more information, contact the Wharton Center Box Office or hoffma95@msu.edu.

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Going Global

“Visual Griots: An Exhibit of Photography by African Youth”
Sept. 15, 2008 – March 15, 2009; MSU Museum, Heritage Gallery
This exhibit showcases the photographic work of Malian sixth-graders from the African villages of Damy and Kouara. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, contact the MSU Museum staff at pr@museum.msu.edu.

Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement
Sept. 19, 2008; MSU Museum, Main Gallery
This Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition profiles twenty-four individuals who define contemporary Latino success in the United States. The group shares their stories through both oral interview and photographs.
For more information, contact the MSU Museum staff at pr@museum.msu.edu.

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A Lesson in NYC

Ever thought about abandoning that raucous East Lansing nightlife and constructing a new persona for yourself in an entirely different city? Move to New York and try one of these identities on for size. Here’s a how-to manual to help you seamlessly indoctrinate yourself into city life.
Hipster
Once you’ve put on those thick black-framed glasses and stood in front of the mirror for a good chunk of time making your hair appear artfully disheveled, take the subway down to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hipster Mecca. Get ready to see dozens of brethren in plaid shirts and suede moccasins identical to your own. Strange hats and vests are also inordinately popular in Williamsburg.
Williamsburg is home to literally dozens of pretentious indie bookstores with an overload of David Sedaris books and more vegan cafes than you ever thought possible. Bedford Avenue is the epicenter of Williamsburg. Grab a cafe seat at a place on Bedford and munch on a vegan cupcake as you jealously eye the beat-up neon orange messenger bag that some girl in tube socks and a headband is rocking.
If you tire of walking through Williamsburg’s post-apocalyptic landscape, (seriously, why are there no trees anywhere? Why do parts of the city look completely abandoned?) sit down somewhere, open up your Mac and spend a few hours looking for yourself in pictures on Thecobrasnake.com. Or look smart pretending to read a book by an obscure Russian author (Yuri Rythkheu, anyone?) Bonus points if the novel isn’t an English translation.
Your ideal major: Africana Studies, Creative Writing, Comparative Literature
Your favorite band: I could tell you, but you wouldn’t know who they are.

Child of Privilege
If you’ve ever unironically worn Sperry Topsiders and think salmon pink and green is a legitimate color combination for everyday wear, the Upper East Side might be a good starting point for you. Dozens of elite private schools are located in this Manhattan neighborhood, and the CW series Gossip Girl is set here. Warning: If you were actually an Upper East Side resident, it is highly unlikely you would ever admit to watching Gossip Girl.
[cathedral2]An afternoon in the life of a trust-fund baby would be relaxed. You might sit on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA), conveniently located along Fifth Avenue, and people watch on a nice day. Or bring a pair of those hugely oversized sunglasses and a towel and sunbathe in Central Park. You could even throw on an argyle sweater and hit up that Lacoste store on Fifth Avenue if you were in the mood to spend some money.
Once your skin is sufficiently darkened, call several of your friends for an impromptu lacrosse game in the Park or head on back to your Park Avenue brownstone. The day isn’t completely free, however – you probably have to go tutor at a struggling public school or volunteer at a soup kitchen so your Harvard Law app really shines in a few years.
Your Ideal Major: Finance, Business
Your Favorite Animal Print: Whales

Expert New Yorker
You grew up in Kansas or a similarly bland, homogenous Midwestern state, where you attended an upper-middle-class high school and led a mildly traumatizing life as a drama enthusiast in a sea of football fans. Then you got that NYU (or for the truly blessed among you, Columbia) acceptance letter. Five months later, you wear skinny jeans, mock baseball-capped tourists as they wander aimlessly down city streets and laugh at the idea of actually having to look at a subway map.
[expert]An afternoon in the lives of Expert New Yorkers would involve showing someone around town, as they truly only come alive when the opportunity to display their immense knowledge about Manhattan presents itself.
To truly pull this one off, make constant use of sentences like:
“I never really felt alive until I moved to the city.”
“I was so out of place in high school. It’s like I can finally breathe now.”
“The art. The culture. This is my real home.”
Answer the questions of visitors with a sigh or a mildly amused laugh at their ignorance. Have a ready-to-go recommendation for anything and everything one can possibly do in Manhattan, even if you have never personally done it yourself. (Best place for an eyebrow waxing? Sania’s Brow Bar, of course. The best deviled eggs in the city? Go to Smith’s.) Be more New York than an actual New Yorker.
Your Ideal Major: Anything that ensures grad school, aka at least four more years in the city
Favorite Art Museum: MOMA, especially because it’s free every Friday night from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. You honestly didn’t know that?

Poet
If you like your coffee and your humor black, head to Greenwich Village. Bohemians and artists have flocked to the Village since the 1950s, when Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac spent a great deal of time avoiding working in the area.
After applying too much eyeliner, grab your tote bag carefully decorated with buttons proclaiming willfully obscure bands (Crystal Castles? The Cool Kids? Panda Bear?) and start your afternoon at the Strand, a huge used bookstore that claims to contain 18 miles of used books. After perusing dusty volumes for a few hours, head to Doma, a Mediterranean-themed café with a quiet, calm atmosphere that lets you finish writing the next great American novel in peace. Grab an issue of left-leaning weekly The Village Voice and flip through it for inspiration if your creative well runs dry. Or gather a group of your writer friends (and really, who among your friends is not a writer?) to discuss the difficulties of the creative process and the struggles that are an inevitable part of creating art.
If you’re attending college (after all, genius can’t be taught – is school really worth it?) you’re probably pursuing a random liberal arts degree, so head on back to your writer’s co-op and perfect that paper about the differences between Aristotle and John Stuart Mill for a few more hours. Be proud. You’re doing work that’s changing the world.
Your Ideal Major: Cinema Studies, Philosophy
Favorite Type of Cigarette: Djarum Blacks

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Kiss Me, I’m Not a Stereotype

During the month of March, every party store in the country features garish displays of grimacing red-haired leprechauns liberally speckled with freckles and donning enormous emerald shamrocks. References to drinking and fighting are made when discussing St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday ostensibly celebrating the noble culture and history in Ireland. But why have these American ideas about Irish traditions gained such credence worldwide?
From 1845 to 1850, Ireland underwent a Great Famine, where an estimated 750,000 people died from starvation or disease and roughly one million emigrated from Ireland to escape the situation. Suddenly, Irish culture, or American perceptions of Irish culture, appeared at the forefront of many major American cities. Sizable Irish enclaves appeared in East Coast cities such as Boston and New York, bringing new tradition to these areas. This huge influx of new immigrants is still highly influential today: according to the 2006 American Community Survey, more than 35 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, claim some form of Irish ancestry. Because of this, many Irish traditions, or American corruptions of Irish traditions, exist in the United States. Unfortunately, many inaccurate ideas about Irish lifestyles have gained prominence as a result.
Irish stereotypes still exert a strong pull over the country today, often serving as visual shorthand when people wish to represent a Celtic theme. “When I think Irish, I think curly red hair, green eyes and people who spend time drinking at pubs and going to church,” human biology freshman Megan Haapala said. “I’ve been to Ireland, though, and I know it’s not like that.”
“I can think of a lot of Irish stereotypes,” communications freshman Matt Muscat said. “Irish people are supposed to be alcoholics, loud, poor and very religious. I think of [the film] The Boondock Saints, or people who get into bar fights.” Films like Gangs of New York and Mystic River present a portrait of working-class, rough-edged Irish Americans who are not afraid to use violence or act rashly to get what they desire. “I believe the media has influenced the Irish Americans, especially those whose ancestors have been here for many generations, since they may not have had the benefit of learning the other side of the story and seeing the true Irish in action,” said Julie Lewis, state president of the Michigan Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH), an Irish Catholic service organization with multiple chapters in Michigan.
Even commonly held ideas about Irish cuisine, such as the popularity of corned beef and cabbage, are often proved to be inaccurate. “[Corned beef and cabbage] is a New York Irish invention and came about, I believe, because the immigrants who started coming to country in great numbers could not afford bacon [ham] to go with the cabbage, so they substituted corned beef. Also, real Irish stew is made with mutton in lieu of beef. I believe the American palate prefers beef stew, as do I,” said Pierce Kent, a Lansing resident who immigrated to America from Ireland 33 years ago.
[lewis]A certain set of ideas often spring to mind when St. Patrick’s Day is being discussed in the United States, but this day-long celebration is quite a change from the original Irish holiday. “When I think of St. Patrick’s Day, I think of Irish dancing, green, shamrocks and parties with other Irish people,” Haapala said. St. Patrick’s Day, commonly celebrated in America as an excuse to imbibe, is drastically different in Ireland, according to Kent. “In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was and is a holy day of obligation and in the past was celebrated by going to mass or services, attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade, wearing the shamrock in your coat lapel, maybe going to a ceili [a traditional Irish social dance] in the evening and generally celebrating the culture of Ireland.” The connection between St. Patrick’s Day and Catholicism is so strong that Irish bishops moved St. Patrick’s Day to March 15 for this year to avoid conflicts with Holy Week, a series of holy days marking the death of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. These inauthentic traditions have an effect on their country of origin.
“Strangely enough, St. Patrick’s Day as celebrated in the U.S.A. is now becoming the norm in Ireland,” Kent said. Kent also said the shamrock, a ubiquitous symbol of Irishness in America, is not wholly authentic. “‘Shamrock plants as sold in the U.S.A. do not resemble the shamrock, which grows wild in Ireland. The only thing they have in common is three leaves. The shamrock is a three-leaved plant, which is similar in appearance to clover,” Kent said.
Multiple misconceptions about Irish culture and people undoubtedly exist, which raises the question as to why these stereotypes are constantly being reinforced in modern day society and in the media. “I believe the media perpetuates the stereotypes since it is easier for them to stick with what they know than to take the time to learn anything different. I also believe that those Irish who do not fit the stereotype and are offended by it need to be more proactive in re-educating the media, both by word and example. No other ethnic group would sit back and allow their race to be stereotyped so negatively,” Lewis said.
“Most stereotypes are based in some form of truth, even though I don’t think all stereotypes are true,” Muscat said. “Little Irish kids see and hear what they are supposed to act like and do it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The media takes stereotypes that are popular in the public eye and portrays them.” Haapala has a different theory about why these ideas about Celtic culture persist. “If you switched up or eliminated the stereotypes, people wouldn’t know what you are referencing. I don’t think that [Irish Americans] follow these stereotypes indirectly; they just don’t realize they are doing it.” Zoology senior Courtney Rockenbach, a member of the MSU Irish dance team, thinks the desire for profit motivates the reinforcement of these stereotypes. “St. Patrick’s Day is great for bars and beer companies,” Rockenbach said.
“The most common stereotype is that all Irish are drunkards and fighters. This may be true of some Irish people, but the same can be said for some other nationalities as well,” Lewis said. “In Ireland, the local pub was the center of social interaction and, on occasion, a few too many pints and a difference of opinion could have resulted in a physical altercation. As the Irish immigrants settled into life in America, they continued the custom of socializing in a central spot and occasionally, a few may have also drank a bit too much and settled disagreements physically. Since the Irish were among the early immigrants to this country, and due to their large numbers, it seemed to outsiders that every Irishman fit that mold.”
[matt]However, numerous groups have developed to fight against these incorrect ideas about the Irish population. One example is the LAOH. “The members of my organization, The Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians, are expected to speak out against anything derogatory and to always behave in a manner that would bring pride to the Irish race. On a personal level, I have gone into stores that sell T-shirts or other items depicting the Irish in a negative manner and make the owner aware that the items are offensive and request that they be removed. I hope that all people of Irish decent will take similar actions,” Lewis said.
While inaccuracies undoubtedly abound when discussing Ireland and its sons and daughters, many people are making efforts to revitalize and renew the way the country is viewed. While the stereotypes that persist about Irish culture may not be visibly harmful to Irish Americans, they need to be corrected, as they are not based in truth. Many hope that in the future, the glittering green beads and plastic shamrock sunglasses that litter supermarkets and discount stores around St. Patrick’s Day will remain relegated to the half-price bin.

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The Rhythm of Independence

What is “indie”? The word often conjures up images of hipper-than-thou scenesters in skinny jeans and Converse sneakers, blasting music you’ve never heard through their large, black, ear-enveloping headphones. The term is used to describe everything from fashion to a lifestyle to a hairdo. While a great deal of baggage surrounds the term, the truest meaning of indie is a band that is not signed to one of the four major music labels: Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony BMG or Universal Music Group. While the definition may be simple, the history of independent music is a long and varied one, spanning four decades and innumerable songs.
In the 1960s, the Federal Communications Commission began to issue class D radio licenses to promote then-new FM radio. Dozens of colleges and universities received licenses and began to broadcast music by artists without major label affiliations. This commitment to music outside the mainstream is still heard on MSU’s radio station, Impact 89FM; the station’s list of top songs on Jan. 15 included bands such as The Frantic and Electric Six. Neither is signed to a major label.
[emily]The term “indie,” short for independent, gained popularity in the mid-1970s with the advent of punk rock, when music fans began to use it as shorthand for artists who did not have the backing of a major record label and instead funded their own recording. By then, the “big four” music labels were umbrellas for a plethora of smaller music labels in various regions and markets around the world. However, the term “indie” is commonly used to describe any music not played on mainstream radio. “When I think ‘indie,’ I always think undiscovered,” social relations and policy and English sophomore Sarah Rankin said.
The trend of an underground music culture stemming from local FM stations continued and expanded into the 1980s. Acts like R.E.M. gained exposure and obtained deals with major record labels based on their positive reception at independent radio stations. In the 1990s, however, an increasing number of radio stations began to stop broadcasting and were folded into National Public Radio or other local radio stations.
“[Indie] is different from [other kinds of music] because there’s more variety… the songs deal with different issues,” James Madison freshman Emily Mortl said. She cited songs like “Crooked Teeth” and “Someday You Will be Loved” by Death Cab for Cutie, “Brighter than Sunshine” by Aqualung and “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand as examples. “I think that the emotional aspect of indie lyrics are more poetic and creative [than the mainstream culture]. It is a different side or emotional stance to an issue,” Mortl said.
Luckily, the Internet also gained popularity at the time, and became the new means of spreading music throughout the country. Peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as Napster or Kazaa enabled people all over the country to listen to obscure bands without the promotional budget to make their music available to a wider audience. This new development vastly increased the popularity of indie music and has played a huge role in breaking new artists. “I always check out the free song of the day on iTunes,” political science freshman Marta Johnson said. “And this is kind of embarrassing, but MySpace also has free downloads.” Word of mouth also plays a huge role in spreading new music. “I usually find out about new music from my sister,” Johnson said. “She goes to underground concerts in New York before bands get big, and tells me about the ones she likes. I also really like XM Radio.”[marta]
Interestingly enough, indie music has found popularity in network commercials, major films and television shows, embracing the very consumerism and corporate values that many indie artists reject. Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson gained popularity after placing several of her songs on her Myspace page; offers to use her music in television shows and commercials followed. Her 2007 album Girls and Boys topped the Billboard Heatseekers chart despite her lack of a recording contract with a major label, mainly because millions heard her songs every week on the ABC television show “Grey’s Anatomy.” “I’ll hear a song in a TV show or in the background of a commercial and look it up online to see who it’s by,” Johnson said. “It’s a really easy way to find out about new music.” Mortl agrees. “I heard the song ‘1, 2, 3, 4′ by Feist in an iTunes commercial and downloaded it.”
Artists who licensed their songs for commercial use were once viewed as sellouts, but now both prefabricated pop princesses and so-called “edgy” alternative artists offer their music for use. Cat Power’s cover of Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” was prominently featured in a Cingular ad. Iron and Wine’s cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” was used in an M&M commercial. Many artists find freedom in this option: they are able to expose their music to a wider audience without being forced to alter their image to conform.
Films are no exception. The recently released movie “Juno” has a soundtrack that includes artists as varied as Kimya Dawson, formerly of The Moldy Peaches, Belle and Sebastian and the Velvet Underground. According to Nielsen Soundscan, the album has sold 75,000 copies since Dec. 11 and debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200. “I was tempted to go find the music that was in “Juno” [after seeing the film,]” Rankin said. Likewise, director Wes Anderson’s films always include a bevy of carefully selected songs by little-known artists. Musicians such as Nick Drake and Elliot Smith gained popularity after being featured in one of Anderson’s movies. Perhaps the best-known work in the genre is the soundtrack to the 2004 film “Garden State,” which won a Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Compilation Soundtrack for a Motion Picture. The album found critical as well as commercial success, being certified gold by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA).
While independently produced music is gaining popularity at the current time, it is unclear if this trend will continue. However, millions of people feel a strong emotional connection to the tunes and lyrics that develop from the scene. “I listen to whatever’s popular a lot of the time, but if I’m feeling really thoughtful or want to relax, I usually pick something a little more challenging,” Johnson said. “And indie music does that for me.”

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Entertainment Statement

[dance1]Saffron yellow and brilliant orange mangoes, dripping with sweet juice. Burning hot curries, carefully flavored with a symphony of spices. Vibrant crimson Tandoori chicken, sizzling, marinated, slow-roasted in a thick sauce and served with buttery, flaky naan on the side. For years, most Americans knew more about the cuisine of India than the people who inhabited the country: their acknowledgment of an entire continent came to an end when they pushed their chairs away from the dining table. Now, as South Asians emerge at the forefront of many different types of media and become an important part of many peoples’ leisure time, popular conceptions of Indian life are beginning to shift.
According to the 2005 United States Census, there are just two million Indians living in the United States. Despite this small number, the ethnic group as a whole has managed to have a large effect on the U.S. A concentration on a select number of “respectable” fields, however, meant many believed Indians were limited to a finite number of careers. “Indians are always seen as being smart,” interdisciplinary health studies senior Radhika Bhavsar said. “It’s assumed that we’ll be a doctor, an engineer, a computer scientist.” Finance sophomore Priya Ahluwalia agrees with this common perception of Indians. “South Asians are still portrayed as being really smart and mostly doctors. This stereotype is still vaguely true to an extent.” Not for long, however. As the population of Indians in the United States continues to increase, many second- and third-generation immigrants are beginning to branch out into the field of entertainment as a career.
[indian12]Over the past decade, dozens of novels by South Asian authors have been released and received popular reviews and critical acclaim. This explosion of Asian viewpoints is a pleasant change from the 1950s and 1960s, when a dearth of literature on the topic meant the ethnic group was solely underrepresented. Bengali author Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of nine short stories dealing with the lives of Indians and Indian-Americans, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Her 2003 follow-up, The Namesake, mined similar experiences, as it followed the life of Gogol Ganguli, a Bengali-American struggling to make sense of both his Bengali and American culture. It was selected as the best book of the year by The New York Times and was later adapted into a 2007 film many South Asians identified with. “I have read [the novel] and have seen the movie,” Ahluwalia said. “The movie showed the type of Indians who try to keep themselves away from Indian culture and many people are definitely like that. Often, it occurs when the parents are too strict and force culture upon their kids.”
Actor Kal Penn, perhaps best known for his role in 2004’s film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and his recurring stint on FOX’s House, is just one example of a South Asian actor being featured prominently in film. “Slowly more and more Indians are showing up in movies and TV shows, which is a great thing. They are still underrepresented, but things are certainly getting better,” Ahluwalia said. Parminder Nagra, the star of the 2003 British film Bend It Like Beckham and a character on hospital drama ER, is another example of a successful Asian actor who plays untypical Asian roles in more than one medium. Likewise, actress Mindy Kaling also does double duty, playing the charmingly scatterbrained character of Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s The Office as well as serving as a writer for the show. “I don’t think there are a lot of times when Asians on television get to play total idiots, so it’s really freeing,” Kaling stated in an interview with Radar magazine. One recent storyline on the show involved an office celebration of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. “Things are starting to change,” Bhavsar said. “Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a show on CNN, Kal Penn is in all these movies. People are becoming more accepting.”
[dance2]India also is becoming more popular as a setting for novels and movies. Author Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent novel Eat, Pray, Love, which reached number one on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction list, is set partially in India, when the author travels to an ashram (a community formed to help people obtain spiritual enlightenment) and lives there for six months. Similarly, director Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Darjeeling Limited, follows three brothers as they journey across India on a train. “In the end, India is really the subject matter of the movie as much as anything else is,” Anderson said, in an October 2007 interview with The A.V. Club. Many people applaud this change and hope that it continues. “Indians should be more represented [in popular culture] just because their culture is so beautiful and unique,” pre-med freshman Theresa Kowalski said.
This heightened acceptance of Indian culture and willingness to alter common conceptions about South Asians also is visible in the numerous MSU organizations dedicated to preserving and maintaining Indian culture. “I am actually on the executive board of the Coalition of Indian Undergrad Students and I would definitely have to say that organizations help a lot. These sorts of organizations are created to help people bond with others dealing with the whole Indian-American identity issue,” Ahluwalia said. “I, for one, believe that I have done a really good job maintaining both. I was quite anti-Indian growing up, but in high school I began to get more and more into Indian culture.”
[theresa2]Bhavsar also believes her involvement in cultural activities helps forge her own personal relationship with Indian culture. “I participate in [Satrang, the annual cultural show sponsored by the Coalition of Indian Undergraduate Students] every single year. I get to dance my heart out and show off my culture to people who haven’t seen it. It helps me stay connected.” Even non-Indians learn from and enjoy cultural displays such as Satrang. “I love the rhythmic moves and the flowing colors of the costumes [in Indian dance]. I really like it when they incorporate hip-hop beats into traditional Indian music. It makes me want to get up and dance!” Kowalski said.
But why is the role of Indians in popular culture changing? Bhavsar thinks it is because each new generation is putting their own twist on the idea of what it is to be Indian. “The mentality of our parents is more accepting than previous generations,” she said. “They’ve transcended into American culture.” On a personal level, she plans to stay away from the commonly accepted Indian career path. According to the 2000 United States Census, Indian-Americans have both the highest median income and amount of education of any minority group. Traditionally, Indian immigrants gravitate towards professions that will provide a stable income for their family and allow for prosperity in the years to come. Some young adults, however, have different plans. “There are so many things to do in this world. I don’t want to be that typical doctor,” she said. “I am doing medicine, but I want to go into telecommunications and have my own talk show while using my medical degree.”
Ahluwalia and Kowalski find a broader reason for this change in thought. “I think it’s because we’re becoming more and more prominent in the fields of science, business, engineering and music, which has, in turn, made people more aware of Indians as a whole,” Ahluwalia said. Kowalski thinks attempts to be more inclusive are finally becoming successful. “I guess the United States is becoming more of a visibly diverse country and is trying harder to integrate all different types of culture in the community, especially through mass media,” Kowalski said.
For years, Indian food was praised for its unique flavor and exotic, unusual contribution to the dining world. These same qualities are also visible in the worlds of film, television and literature. As Indian culture jumps off the dining table and integrates itself into other parts of life, the United States finds itself to be richer with these experiences.

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