NEW YORK (RNS) — In 2012, Erika Menendez shoved Sunando Sen, 46, on to the New York Town subway tracks in front of an oncoming train.
“I pushed a Muslim off the coach tracks due to the fact I detest Hindus and Muslims ever considering the fact that 2001 when they put down the twin towers I have been beating them up,” she is quoted as acquiring informed police shortly after the fatal crime. Sen was born in India and lifted Hindu.
In preferred society, New York Metropolis is generally portrayed as distinctly secular. But “City of Faith: Religion, Activism, and Urban Place,” a new show at the Museum of the Town of New York, indicates that the city — and the public areas, scents, acts of solidarity and, certainly, the hate crimes therein — simply cannot be comprehended without having religion.
“I imagine religion is a subtext in the numerous spaces and conversations in which we imagined it to be absent,” the exhibition’s curator, Azra Dawood, instructed Faith Information Services in a latest job interview at the museum. “And I’m definitely hoping that the exhibition surfaces some of the means in which faith is actually a part of the town.”
With a selection of first portraits, maps and interactive installations (that includes curated scents and soundtracks), Dawood issues New York’s nonreligious popularity, arguing that the city’s perceived secularism is actually covert Protestantism. From this backdrop — in which Protestantism dominates (through land, funds and politics) and Catholic and Jewish communities have produced inroads — South Asian communities can grow to be both equally indistinguishable and hypervisible.
As a Muslim and South Asian lady, Dawood is personally familiar with this dynamic, and as an architectural historian, she frequently considers how faith reveals up in concrete and noticeable techniques.
“(Faith) is not siloed off in explicitly spiritual institutions, this kind of as church buildings, synagogues, temples, mosques,” Dawood noticed. “You uncover it in the city’s shared community areas, on streets and sidewalks and waterways, foodways.”
Dawood pointed to Johannes Eisele’s picture of a person praying next to a halal foods cart in midtown Manhattan as an illustration of unforeseen religion showcased in the exhibit.
“The halal food stuff carts began as a way of providing cheap halal foods to Muslim communities operating in different types of businesses,” she explained. “Now it’s a gastronomic delight for all New Yorkers.”
Photos shown during the show spotlight how minority religious communities refuse to be boxed in by stereotypes. Photographed portraits by MIPSTERZ, a Muslim arts and lifestyle collective, demonstrate Muslims grinning and putting poses in New York’s community landscape to reclaim the area. Portraits of New York-based Sikhs by Amit Amin and Naroop Jhooti rejoice individuals this kind of as former NYC subway operator Sat Hari Singh. Singh, who saved 800 life by reversing his practice through 9/11, also successfully sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority just after it essential workers to manufacturer their religious headgear with MTA logos. These photos offer a counterpoint to reductionist narratives.
Even though majority religions have the luxury of blending into a cultural landscape, the exhibit implies Sikh, Hindu and Muslim teams really do not have that privilege. The flattening and racialized profiling of these communities is captured in the set up “CURB,” a sprawling guide of poems encased in glass and put in the heart of a person of the exhibit’s two rooms.
The poems — demonstrated in this article as part of a confined-edition illustrated e book that expands various feet when opened — explore violence versus South Asian Americans in U.S. general public spaces and are introduced together with two shorter movies influenced by the poems.
Poet Divya Victor, who was also an adviser on the exhibition, describes her poems as emerging from “the very long wake of the Patriot Act,” the period of the Muslim registry and the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.
“I realized that poets and writers would need to start having to pay particular consideration to surveillance, spectatorship, supremacist vigilance, and monetized public confession,” she informed RNS. “I also knew that I desired to document the concern that my family members associates commenced to knowledge in general public areas with the rise of anti-immigrant and especially anti-Asian functions.”
Victor additional that the poems, which are out there in paperback, also replicate the resistance to “both white and Hindu supremacist forces” getting root in South Asian communities.
Nevertheless the exhibit largely focuses on times of beauty and solidarity amid South Asian communities, it does not shy absent from grappling with the fraught realities of anti-Blackness and the legacy of the caste process. South Asian artist Utsa Hazarika’s “Pilgrims/This Is Not That Dawn,” for instance, is a commissioned multimedia piece that explores the complicated romance among Black and South Asian communities in America.
Beneath a massive, stylized image of a stamp from India depicting Martin Luther King Jr., museumgoers are invited to put on headphones and listen to the soundtrack Hazarika developed. Listeners overhear Martin Luther King Jr. replicate on his encounter with the caste technique during his 1959 trip to India and are reminded by comedian Hasan Minhaj of how the civil legal rights motion paved the way for the advancement of South Asian communities in the U.S.
“The only cause so a lot of of us are here is because of the Immigration Act of ’65. That legislation rode the wave of the Civil Legal rights Act of ’64,” Minhaj states in the soundtrack.
“The exchanges between American civil legal rights activists and the anti-colonial movement in South Asia mark a time period of internationalism that has mostly fallen away from mainstream consciousness,” Hazarika explained to RNS in an electronic mail. “In the United States precisely, the probable of these actions has been obscured by both of those a decline of this internationalist heritage, and the racial composition within which South Asians have often tended to a proximity to whiteness, alternatively than embracing their anti-colonial histories to oppose racialized violence.”
Other installations — these types of as the bold-coloured portraits of South Asian American feminist activists by artist and South Asian Women’s Imaginative Collective founder Jaishri Abichandani — also uplift examples of South Asian activism the two within and over and above cultural and religious circles.
Nevertheless New York is crammed with the art, architecture, collective action and heritage of South Asian communities, this is the initial exhibit at the century-previous Museum of the Metropolis of New York to emphasis on them, according to Dawood. She hopes this exhibit, which closes in October, will prompt persons to understand the vivid religious expressions of South Asian teams and to observe the delicate methods faith operates in the environment all-around them.
“It is typically genuinely tricky to communicate about faith. … I hope the exhibition exhibits how multilayered the discussion about faith is, and how a lot it is a part of our landscape.”