The following information was provided by Chandana Mathur, editor of SAMAR.
SAMAR (South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection) was launched in 1992 as a magazine of political and cultural debate with a South Asian focus. It is published twice a year by an editorial collective based in New York. We choose the term "South Asian" because we feel it is important to draw attention to the fact that South Asians are a group of people with a shared history, and that this history provides a common basis for understanding our place in the contemporary world. While many other South Asian publications are based on differences of region, religion and nationality within South Asia, we have chosen to base ours on a South Asian collectivity that is now spread out across the globe.
SAMAR was founded by a group of community organizers, writers, teachers and scholars. It began with a letter that was sent out to a few hundred South Asians across the United States, which voiced the need for an alternative publication in an overall climate that was politically conservative and in a community that was politically unorganized compared to other immigrant communities. The letter also asked for donations that would help bring out the first issue. The support that we received in the form of donations, letters and phone calls convinced us that the time for SAMAR had indeed arrived. Although wealthy, conservative, and primarily male voices have dominated as spokespersons for our communities in North America, it was clear from this response that there was room for an accessible, intelligent and hard-hitting magazine focusing on left and progressive perspectives. The legacy of community backing is important to us, and we are strongly committed to the goal of developing SAMAR as a genuinely community-based publication.
SAMAR aims to foster debate and discussion within the community. The emphasis is on clear and analytic writing: SAMAR prefers to avoid the superficial news-byte and entertainment focus of many magazines, or at the other extreme, the inaccessible language of most academic journals. Although we greatly admire several South Asian publications that are centered around a particular concern -- for example, magazines dealing with gay and lesbian issues, or sustainable development, or the issues faced by taxi drivers in New York City -- SAMAR has a multi-issue agenda and an interest in exploring the linkages between various political struggles. SAMAR was conceived as an activist magazine, and has been deeply responsive to individual activists and community organizations which have challenged injustice stemming from prejudices about race, religion, class, caste, gender and sexual orientation.
As an ethnic publication in the United States, SAMAR backs its commitment to the building of solidarities amongst people of color by providing coverage to such alliances - the forum section of the Summer 1995 issue is a case in point.
At the same time as it provides space for quick-witted and critical writing on South Asian American issues, SAMAR also maintains a distinct Third World focus. The magazine links traditions of struggle in South Asia with those in South Asian communities here. SAMAR is vigilant and creative about locating important movements and organizing strategies in South Asia and North America, and facilitating communication between the two.
A significant proportion of South Asian Americans were born in the West or have lived here most of their lives. It is a source of some frustration to some in this group that most South Asian cultural activities in North America are dominated by the religious right in the immigrant community. SAMAR is addressed to this generation as we attempt together to carve out an alternative space for South Asian arts and culture. SAMAR is committed to providing a forum for the sensibility and the particular forms of creativity associated with South Asian populations, as also for the variety of hybrid cultural forms that have exploded throughout the South Asian diaspora. Rooted in a world region known for its history of partition and conflict, we recognize a particular mission to facilitate creative communication through the publication of translated work from various South Asian languages, and through the recovery and display of the pluralism that often underlies both our artistic traditions and the work of present-day South Asian writers, artists and performers.
Each issue of SAMAR carries a core set of articles on a particular theme (the "forum"), as well as feature articles, short fiction, poetry, art, profiles, reviews and interviews. Past forum titles include: 'Culture away from "Home"', 'Communalism at "Home" and "Abroad"', 'The Packaging of South Asia: the Politics behind Contemporary Global Perceptions of South Asia', 'Class Encounters of the South Asian Kind', 'Black or White or What?', and 'South Asians and the Politics of Science and Technology'. The Winter 1997 issue carries a forum called 'Sex, Lives and South Asians'. For SAMAR's fifth birthday in 1997-98, we are planning a paired set of forum topics: the Summer issue will focus on activism and organizing by South Asians in North America, while the Winter issue will carry articles on conservative South Asian movements in North America. The former will build on a panel organized by SAMAR at Desh Pardesh in June 1996, called 'Activism by Any Means Necessary'. We expect that both these issues will make for interesting reading for politically concerned South Asians in the United States and Canada.
Subscription information: Please write to SAMAR, P.O. Box 1349, Ansonia Station, New York NY 10023.
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