White Hindu Converts: Mimicry Or Mockery?

11/15/2012 03:29 am ET | Updated Jan 14, 2013

It is ironic that, while so many Diasporic Hindus mimic imaginary archetypes of "white" American culture in order to assimilate, to deny their colonized and oppressed histories, to (futilely) self-blanch, and to be accepted by the dominant white Christian privileged culture, a select group of white Americans do the opposite. They claim to have "converted" to Hinduism and concurrently mimic their imaginary (and often Orientalist) archetypal "Hindu" in order to reverse-assimilate, to deny their colonial histories, to (futilely) color their lives, and, paradoxically, to be marginalized.

But is their mimicry merely disguised or (unintentional) mockery?

The former group, the Diasporic Hindus, may not have much choice but to aspire to be accepted, despite (or because of) the proclamation of Pollyanna pluralists.

The latter group, the White Hindu Converts, in (dark and stark) contrast, have a choice to believe that they can "reverse mimic," identify with the subaltern group and can transform from the oppressor to the oppressed, from the colonizer to the colonized. Surely such an imagined transformation is only available to those who are privileged in the first place. While the responsibility for the historical privileging may not lie with them, they cannot avoid benefiting from the ill-gotten fruits.

So, no matter their sincerity, or self-proclaimed authenticity, their mimicry seems more like mockery. And, unlike the forced mimicry of the Diaspora Hindu, which may have subversive undertones and may destabilize the dominant ideology, reverse mimicry, ironically, merely reinforces existing hierarchies and paradigms. In fact, some claim to be more "authentic" than Diaspora Hindus and, in so doing, deny the voice of those they mimic/ mock.

Of course there are always a plethora of pleasant anecdotes that Diaspora Hindus welcomed White Hindu Converts in their temples and homes. But is this welcome sincere? Or is it merely proof that the Diasporic Hindus still suffer from post-traumatic, post-colonial, servile disorder?

It is easy to argue that the experience of Hinduism in America cannot be understood without taking into consideration the relationship between colonization and Hinduism, and that the experience of being colonized is not available to white Americans.

If so then White Hindu Converts cannot ever be, or experience anything like, Diaspora Hindus.