The Sepia Mutiny weblog ends on April 1st. Notice the date; I’m not totally convinced this isn’t a false and humorous move. That being said, I know that the idea has been mooted a bit over the past year or so, because for a period last year I was a contributor and it came up. I have a long history with that website, first through my friends Manish and Vinod, who I got to know the year before, and over the years since then trying to gain a sense of other brown people in the USA.
For me the biggest thing that comes out of that website is that many people realized that to be brown/Indian could mean very different things. For example, many Indian Americans whose families are from South India did not teach their children Hindi, because they did not know Hindi, so the Hindi-normative assumptions of many Indian Americans of North Indian provenance fell flat (I think the same is true to a lesser extent for Bengalis, though for different reasons). This dynamic of diversity was particularly striking to me when readers were discussing the fact that an Indian American journalist observed the incongruity of the Indian doctor character on E.R. wearing white to her wedding. White of course being the color of death in South Asia…but the fact is that it is not the color of death in South Asia, but the color of death in parts of South Asia! The knowing sneer of the Indian American journalist was rebutted by South Indian American voices which pointed out that white has no such connotation in their ancestral culture, which is obviously as South Asian or Indian as any.
So in terms of a matter of ethnography I found the SM weblog fertile. This website would not exist if not for SM. On the other hand I remain unconvinced after all these years that there is any coherent South Asian/Indian American political position which is not narrow (e.g., profiling in airport security) or non-specific (e.g., the general Left-liberal orientation of many high SES Indian Americans is almost exactly the same as high SES Jews). As a dissenter when it comes to the political positions held by most of the contributors it seemed that the authors weren’t convincing anyone, but simply reinforcing and sharpening their own views. There’s a place for that, but I think that was not the original intent (and the non-liberal and Left voices on the website fell away over the years in a self-reinforcing pattern).