In her article “Identity Dub: The paradoxes of an Indian American Youth Subculture (New York Mix),” Sunaina Maira analyzes the syncretism of Indian and American culture, looking specifically at second-generation Indian youth in the New York club scene. In New York, she observes, the South Asian youth tends to adopt the hip-hop aesthetic as far as fashion, but also blends hip-hop with bhangra, a phenomenon Maira refers to as “remix culture.”
What struck me as interesting was the section in which some of her interviewees discuss the temporality of their relationship with hip-hop. They say that it is by no means temporary – that they will always have the financial security of their highly educated parents, despite their declared affinity for hip-hop culture, which has lower-class roots. In other words, they seem to be adopting the aesthetics of hip-hop without actually touching its foundations.
Subcultures are often defined by their resistance to a real or imagined mainstream, and their music, fashion, and consumerist choices usually stem from a desire to subvert preconceived establishments. The Goth aesthetic – dark, corpselike, devoid of expression, for example, is a clear contradiction of almost every mainstream-media image of beauty – youthfulness and exuberance. Is it possible that the root of most subcultures’ defiance is class difference? That is to say, do members of a subculture attempt to distance themselves from their mainstream by adopting the values and aesthetics of a different, usually lower, class? In the case of Goths and punks, their torn up, industrial, and oftentimes shabby clothing stands at odds with a clean middle-/upper-class aesthetic. In reference to this article, the second-generation Indian-Americans, usually the children of educated and financially sound parents, seem to be adopting hip-hop style not only to blend in with the scenescape of New York, but to glamorize a class different than their own.