Seeing Is Believing: South Asian Characterizations in Popular US TV Programming

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:27
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Bhoomi THAKORE, Northwestern University, USA
In the 21st century, representations of non-whites have become increasingly common in popular US television programming. With the recognition of Black actresses like Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Kerry Washington (Scandal), and Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) in popular media (and for some, in 2015 by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences), analysts have recognized television as a entertainment space in which non-whites have finally “made it.” However, these conclusions fail to acknowledge the role of entertainment media as a social institution; one that reinforces and perpetuated ideological norms about what race “looks like” in US society.  In this analysis, I discuss contemporary representations of non-whites in popular US TV programming, focusing on examples of South Asian characters and actors. I emphasize the ways in which the “characterizations” that comprise the writing, casting, and production of these characters are intentional, and used to reinforce institutional ideologies that maintain dichotomous representation of “Black” and “White” in television and in society.