Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




In the 21st century, representations of South Asians in American popular media have grown exponentially. This is a particularly interesting phenomenon when considering the status that South Asians occupy in the American racial hierarchy. In Just Like Everyone Else? Locating South Asians in 21st Century American Popular Media, I examine audience perceptions of South Asian/Indian characters and actors in American popular media. My research is guided by the following question: to what extent do audience perceptions of South Asians in U.S. popular media reflect pre-existing ideologies of race, gender, ethnicity, and immigration? Using data from 155 open-ended online questionnaires and 50 in-depth interviews, I argue that South Asian media representations today no longer embody the overt stereotypes associated with this group: savage foreigner, heavily accented new immigrant, and cheap small business owner. Rather, respondents describe and discuss contemporary representations to indicate that they are portrayed as assimilated and even "Americanized." However, from a critical race perspective, I argue that while media representations of South Asians can be characterized as conforming to mainstream, white, American norms, these characters actually do little to challenge the racial status quo in American society. Additionally, these characterizations through intentional writing and casting decisions present a particular representation of American society in which racial hierarchies are maintained and not challenged.

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