Selling the East in the American South

Selling the East in the American South

“Selling the East in the American South” by Vivek Bald explores the historical narrative of South Asian immigration and the migration towards Eastern and Southern United States. Bald explains that work found on South Asian immigration studies is either focused on occurring after the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act of 1965 or the Punjabi movements towards the west coast. However, Bald argues that an important component to South Asian immigration studies is the movement of Bengal Muslim peddlars in the American south occurring in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Starting in New York and New Jersey, Bengal peddlars migrated their way toward the American south in places like Charleston, Savannah, Birmingham, Jacksonville, and the largest being New Orleans. Some peddlars even traveled to Cuba, Belize, Honduras, and Panama. Bald argues that this movement of Bengal Muslims was determined by growing port cities of travel and tourism that desired oriental goods and exotic Eastern customs to highlight white male masculinity and white female extravagance. The selling of oriental goods would be the life in which these Bengal peddlars lived. However, unlike the traditional route/migration patterns that immigrants had taken, these peddlars would rarely ever settle. In fact, they would often go back to their countries of origin when tourism was not in season. However, very few of these peddlars did settle and Bald argues that their settlement in New Orleans was incorporated into the history of Black New Orleans. The study of South Asian American immigrants helps to incorporate a number of immigrants who had rarely been studied and see how their presence became known in the southern United States. It also helps to see how they impacted relationships between global movements, seasonal citizenship, economic demands, and a multitude of other things also effecting the southern United States.

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