Indian Accents

Brown Voice and Racial Performance in American Television and Film
Author: Shilpa S. Davé
A breakthrough approach in American studies and media culture that shifts the current conversations on Asian Americans and popular culture
Cloth – $110
Paper – $27
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 04/10/2013
Cloth: 04/10/2013
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About the Book

Amid immigrant narratives of assimilation, Indian Accents focuses on the representations and stereotypes of South Asian characters in American film and television. Exploring key examples in popular culture ranging from Peter Sellers's portrayal of Hrundi Bakshi in the 1968 film The Party to contemporary representations such as Apu from The Simpsons and characters in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Shilpa S. Davé develops the ideas of "accent," "brownface," and "brown voice" as new ways to explore the racialization of South Asians beyond visual appearance. Davé relates these examples to earlier scholarship on blackface, race, and performance to introduce "accent" as a means of representing racial difference, national origin, and belonging, as well as distinctions of class and privilege. While focusing on racial impersonations in mainstream film and television, Indian Accents also amplifies the work of South Asian American actors who push back against brown-voice performances, showing how strategic use of accent can expand and challenge such narrow stereotypes.

About the Author

Shilpa S. Davé is Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, and an assistant professor of media studies and American studies at University of Virginia. She is also the coeditor of East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture.


"This book expands the horizon for the triumph of "brown accents" in the American popular culture landscape and is a valuable source of information about Asian American studies and media studies. Recommended."--Choice

"This book offers a much needed corrective to the portrayal of South Asian masculinity in American popular culture and is, therefore, a valuable addition to the field."--American Studies

"Shilpa Davé was able to capture the multidimensional elements of representations of people of color that go beyond visual markers of identification but also include sonic components to ethnic characters in media. Her innovative application of the double meaning of the word 'accent' opens a new level of analysis of ethnic representation in film and media studies and ethnic studies." --Journal of Asian American Studies

"Davé brilliantly studies the racialized, classed, and nationalistic codes of Orientalist and model minority representations with an underwriting analysis of heteronormative masculinity. . . . Shilpa Davé does crucial critical work in diasporic visual culture."--Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas


"A truly innovative use of 'accents' as a methodological entry into understanding where South Asians are positioned within America and American popular culture. Persuasively argued and full of many sharp, insightful moments, Indian Accents will be invaluable to scholars of American studies, Asian American studies, ethnic studies, and media studies."--Gita Rajan, coeditor of New Cosmopolitanisms: South Asians in the U.S.