Jan 1, 2015
Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
This article examines new aspects of the relationship between the United States and India since September 11, 2001. A number of widely circulating memoirs composed by American women over the past decade indicate a new alliance between American and Indian culture. I read these texts to probe the draw to India, which as I show, is propelled through the needs of whiteness. The silent yet necessary triangulation with Islam, the possibility of learning from Hindu women and Hindu codes of sexual regulation, and the distancing from British colonialism: all these enhance the late imperial turn toward “India.” The white woman’s subjectivity—wounded and innocent—is culled from the events of 9/11; her suffering sutures her with the American nation. She turns to India because of a sentimental need, and she is healed through an emotional voyage upon the terrain of Hinduism. While building upon an earlier history, it is in the references to Islam, arranged marriage, and British colonialism that we appreciate the shift in the Indo-US partnership in the contemporary world order. My argument is that the draw to “India” enables the white woman to fortify herself and survive the travails of neoliberalism in the post-9/11 world. By regulating the white woman’s desire, by serving as an antidote to Islam, and by rejecting British colonialism, a necessarily Hindu India ensures the fragility and resilience of imperial whiteness. Expressions of suffering, of India’s power to palliate, to contain and negate Islam, and to have broken with British colonialism, all soothe her pain and realize the reach of US imperial power.