3 questions about BP readers

I liked sbakkurum’s bio and it set me wondering about our readers/regular handles..

(1.) are you male or female?

(1b.) Do we have female commentators or do we have female readers?

(2.) is Kabir the only commentator with a liberal arts education?

(2b.) is anyone not a STEMMIE?

(3.) are you desi?

(3b.) what is ur ethnic origin?

(3c.) if you are Hindu; are you Upper Caste?

(3d.) If not are you Dalit or identify as a historically backward/oppressed caste?

(Bonus) how are you privileged in a South Asian context? How are you privileged (or not) in a Western context? How do you check your privilege?

55 thoughts on “3 questions about BP readers”

  1. Definitely not a STEMMIE, thank the lord. Someone needs to read Literary Fiction and perform classical music. The world would be a terribly boring place with only “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. Not to mention that none of these subjects have anything to do with the Human Condition–which is what the Humanities are all about. In order to understand ourselves and our societies, we need Anthropologists, Sociologists, and Psychologists.

    I am very privileged in a South Asian context. We live in Lahore Defense Housing Authority (one of the richest and most elite areas of Lahore). We speak English fluently. We have foreign passports and foreign education. My family history includes Pakistani Civil Servants, lawyers and doctors. We are not filthy rich by any means but certainly in the top 5% of Pakistani society. On the other hand, everyone has always had to work for a living and there is no inherited wealth.

    In the US, my family is comfortably upper-middle class. We have always lived in elite neighborhoods (Bethesda, Maryland and Foggy Bottom, NW Washington DC). My father paid for my college education out of his own pocket. No scholarships or student loans. He was a World Bank employee. So we moved in quite successful professional circles in DC. My mother is a medical doctor. However, being a Muslim minority in the US is tough, especially in the current ideological climate.

  2. The question or answer about ‘upper caste ‘ is a bit bizarre. Is some one says ‘I am upper/ lower’ caste , I would consider him/her pompous, narcissistic @$$hole. Personally here anyone’s financial or social background is immaterial to me. That said, I would like see personal histories and how someone navigated through social and other differences

      1. Basically, I am me. I come from an orthodox brahmin family , even though I am anything but orthodox for all my adult life. On a brahminical scale of living , if my father was 100 , I would be 2 or 3. My life style and choices may not be brahminical , OTOH my world view is brahminical i.e. Bharat that is India is Pitr Bhumi and the land of ancestors and centre of moral universe.

  3. I think lack of female contributors is a problem. Women offer a different and sometimes very necessary perspective.

    I wonder if there is something about this blog in particular that turns women off? Blogging in general seems to be female dominated (Writing is considered a feminine skill and most English majors are women) but perhaps those are blogs about Literary Fiction or other “softer” topics.

      1. I agree the topic matters. But are women not interested in History or Partition etc? I don’t think one can make that argument.

        Perhaps women get turned off by the confrontational style of commenting? It’s only a working hypothesis at this point.

  4. I have an undergraduate humanities background and most of my personal reading is literary fiction…no musical talent to speak of however. Not uncomfortable with Math/symbolic logic, studied those as well, but wouldn’t consider myself a STEM person. Would answer the other questions in more detail through survey monkey.

    1. I could tell you had a humanities background. No wonder your comments are in general more nuanced and better written than those of others.

      I wonder why my posts on Literary Fiction didn’t get picked up then?

    2. Thanks fellas. Kabir, I did read (and appreciate) the literary reviews and music posts. Having an opinion on politics or popular history is easier than for art i suppose. I do look forward to sharing my perspective when I’ve read/listened to the material.

      1. Thanks. Literature makes a nice change from the endless India-Pakistan debates but BP didn’t seem to be the right place for it….

  5. I have a PhD in Communist dialectics. I am part Uzbek part Tatar, carry a Russian passport, a Muslim servant of the Prophet and a proud citizen of the Ummah. I work as head janitor at Windsor. My ex was a Pak punjabi, who got me into the lashkari zaban – which I now can speak with good fluency. I know how to shoot AKs and I cannot stand any disrespect of Islam or Islamabad or lyubimaya Rossiya.

    Jaggu Jangjoo is my nom de guerre for the annual sabbaticals I take to fight for Muslim brothers oppressed by the Kuffar.

    1. Janitor Sahab,

      Do let us know what working for Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex is like.

  6. “If not are you Dalit?”

    This brings me to the topic that the President of India recently offered his prayers at Brahma temple in Pushkar Sarovar, Rajasthan, out side on the steps of the temple. An FB post said it is because the temple has rules that prohibit Dalits inside. Hindustan Times report said the First Lady had problem climbing steps. Intriguing news worth probing into.

  7. I’m male with a liberal arts background (I studied philology). But with all due respect to our brother Kabir, I find the whole credentialist preoccupation tiresome. Arguments are arguments, and should be dealt with on their merits. The fact that the speaker has a particular background should have no impact on how the argument is evaluated.

    In terms of background, I come from a Tamil Brahmin family. I don’t consider brahmin as my “caste,” as I don’t live a brahmanical lifestyle. The question of privilege to me is muddled. In an American context, it seems entirely natural to me that white people who have lived here for generations, fought wars for the country, etc should enjoy more “privilege.” They have more skin in the game, as it were. The more interesting questions for me are 1) what moral responsibilities flow from that position of privilege, if any and 2) as new arrivals to this country and society, what can we do to penetrate that circle of privilege and enjoy its benefits?

    1. White people do not have more “skin in the game”. All United States Citizens are created equal. Many African-Americans have also lived in the US for generations (after their ancestors were forcibly brought there). There are also people like me (the children of Indian and Pakistani immigrants). For all intents and purposes, the US is our home.

      The whole liberal arts thing was about the fact that STEM calls for a different way of thinking and sometimes STEM people do not understand the way that liberal arts people argue. Also liberal arts people tend to write better English than STEM people. Finally, our ways of looking at the world are different. Numbers make very little sense to me while narratives do.

      1. Well yes, in theory we are all “equal,” but it’s naive to think that this conforms to reality in fact. The point is that the privilege of white people is dependent in no small measure on the subservient position of African Americans. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

        1. “The privilege of white people is dependent in no small measure on the subservient position of African Americans”.

          This is what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “White Supremacy”. But it has nothing to do with Whites having more “skin in the game” rather with the fact that US was built on slavery and genocide (of the “Native Americans”).

          1. This is what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “White Supremacy”. But it has nothing to do with Whites having more “skin in the game” rather with the fact that US was built on slavery and genocide (of the “Native Americans”).

            #liberalArtsNuance 🙂

          2. One doesn’t have to agree with Coates on everything (I certainly don’t) but he is the go-to guy for discussions of racism and White Supremacy these days.

    2. I agree with Vishal on ‘credentialist reductionism’ . It is just snobbery to say those with liberal arts graduation are somehow more humanistically inclined than those with STEM. It is equally snobbery to say those with science/engineering graduation are somehow more scientific in their outlook or more logical thinkers. 95% of Science/Engineering graduates in India are unfit for higher science or even ordinary jobs which are technologically challenging. Mostly subcontinental students choose their graduation based on parental pressure.

      I come from Physics/Management background . By the time I was 25, I had read most classics in History ( e.g. Toynbee ), Sociology , Anthropology ,Philosophy and further down the line I am fairly conversant with Linguistics. This imaginary correlation with graduation with life attitudes/capability is just nonsense and probably shows a mental outlook of below 25 when one desperately justifies what she has done is the best thing and somehow puts her better than others in cleverness or ‘humanness’ .

      1. My only regret in my self-education was that my reading and appreciation of fiction is weak – reading and appreciation of poetry is non-existent. I have concentrated too much on non-fiction to the detriment of fiction/poetry

        1. It’s never too late. Try reading the Classics of English Literature. “Pride and Prejudice”, “Bleak House” etc.

          And of course there is the world’s greatest dramatist, William Shakespeare. Any educated human being should be conversant with his plays.

          1. BTW, I have read some of Jane Austen , Bronte , Charles Dickens, Poe, Maugham , etc. Even Shakespeare – As You Like It and King Lear were my English studies during B.Sc. From my late 20s , imaginative lit has not taken my time -. I have spent too much time understanding and analyzing real world to the exclusion of alternative worlds. When I was small I have read lot of Hindu epics and Puranas . Now that I am 65, I will try my hand in poetry, even though it sounds ridiculous.

          2. Then you’ve read a lot of English Literature actually.
            I think Literature teaches us a lot about the “real world”, especially about what is going on inside people’s heads. “Pride and Prejudice” tells us about the reasons why girls of a certain social status marry men they may not love. I’ve learned more about Ambition, Jealousy, and Grief from Shakespeare than I ever did in any of my Psychology courses.

            I don’t mean to slight Indian Literature in languages other than English either, it’s just that I am most familiar with English. But we did have the ghazals of Ghalib and Faiz in the house. I did try reading the Hindu epics in English translation, but they didn’t move me.

            I must confess a bias towards the Western Canon. I think they do fiction and drama better than South Asians do. Urdu and Farsi poetry can probably give English poetry a run for its money though.

          3. @Violet
            Vishnu Sahasranamam used to be my family fav. In our tradition of Srivaishnavism Sankrit, Prakrit and Tamil poetry of Vedanta Desika is a must. Of course Divyaprabandham , 4000 Tamil verses are also a must. As you say, Hindu religious poetry is meant to be performed with set meters I.e. Chandas. Poetry is meant to be sung and heard , that is the Indian concept. The original Chandas, Vedas have also extensive meters. Family tradition is Yajur Veda and I will try them at some point. Hindu tradition provide tons of poetry and imaginative little.

      2. Perhaps liberal arts graduates become defensive when no one hires us for jobs while some chap who learned the latest programming language is making $100,000 a year 🙁
        I tried to learn Python. I was bored to death. Perhaps if intellectual skills were more valued by the “market”, our defensiveness would decrease.

        That said, I have interacted with enough people to know that Liberal Arts people generally write better and read more widely than non-Liberal Arts people. But there are of course exceptions.

        1. well in software isn’t really something that is dominated by STEM. lots of ppl go through the boot-camps and such and have liberal arts degrees. philosophy and more trad degreed types (eg classics) seem to do especially well. contrast this with biotech where all the major players are STEM background.

  8. One doesn’t have to agree with Coates on everything (I certainly don’t) but he is the go-to guy for discussions of racism and White Supremacy these days.

    he’s an OK writer stylistically if you like purple prose. but his substantive content is vapid and derivative.

    he *is* culturally influential. but not because he’s a deep analyst or a nuanced thinker. his vision is reductively manichaean, and his grasp of the facts is weak (i speak as someone who knows a lot more about american history than regular people).

    not surprisingly his best seems to come out when he’s not talking to a white liberal, who often seem to annoy him with their unctuous pandering.

    here’s is in my opinion coates being at his best as a thinker (because he’s challenged): https://www.nationalreview.com/podcasts/the-jamie-weinstein-show/episode-50-ta-nehisi-coates/

    1. my comment was meant partly as a joke because you tend to go on in the comments about how nuanced liberal arts educated people are in relation to STEM. i do agree that STEM people have a rigid axiomatic way of thinking that doesn’t capture the nuance and texture of reality. but most liberal arts people are kind of stupid to be honest, and don’t really bring much more to the table than some rhetorical tricks they learned. coates is a great example of this. he persuades with poetic language that confirms the priors of his core audience (white liberals).

      but his nuance on matters of race and american history are as striking as osama bin laden’s appreciation of the diversity within the muslim tradition. they’re not.

      1. “Most liberal arts people are kind of stupid”. Well, at least we begin all sentences with a capital letter (Why do you not do that? It’s a basic convention of good English).

        I swear to God, if you were my undergraduate, I would just not read anything you wrote unless you capitalized all proper nouns and the beginnings of all sentences. This was a major pet peeve of mine over the past four months.

        As for your main point, aren’t most people kind of stupid? But the Liberal Arts is about the Human Condition and as such is inherently more important than whatever is going on in STEM. The discussions we are engaged in on this blog are about politics, sociology, culture, not so much about engineering and technology.

        Science is different and I will admit that I don’t know anything about it. But the “T” and “E” people in STEM are not intellectuals by any means but rather technicians.

      1. there something to what TNC is saying.

        but in general i agree with john mcwhorter that his popularity is more about what white people want from black intellectuals than what TNC is saying


        i’m pretty sure that TNC feels the same on some level, if you listen to interviews where he has a fawning white interlocuter he invariably gets impatient and irritable with them. this is in contrast when he’s talking to someone who’s not kissing his ass all the time.

        1. I quite like the article you have linked to. There is definitely some element of performativity in being “woke”. And if Coates really didn’t care about the deaths of firefighters on 9/11 just because they were White (not sure that’s a fair characterization), he has a problem. Also if he thinks his son shouldn’t play with White children, that is just weird. But then again, African-Americans have a right to be angry about the way they have been (and continue to be) treated.

          But this is a Conservative website you have linked to and hence I am inclined to think that it is doing Coates no favors. I linked to criticisms of him in the NYRB, which is an institution that someone of my political views and upbringing is inclined to take very seriously.

  9. Caste wise, grand parents were upper caste/class in Sri Lanka, where the Farmer caste (Sinhala Govi/Tamil Vellala) is the top caste and 50% of the population. In India my grandparents would be Shudra’s.
    My caste; I would have to give one of the Ondaatje (e.g. Michael: English Patient) ancestors answer “God only knows”.

    Ondaatje/Ondaatjie sounds a Dutch name, but is Tamil something like Undatchi. Some other names Knower, probably from Navaratnam.

    Literature/Humanities: From pre teens till about 20, read Thomas Hardy, Walter Scott, Bernard Shaw, Flaubert, Boccacio, Somerset Maugham, PG Wodehouse etc. Could not get thru Tolstoy of Dostoevsky books though, too many names for the same person. Two bookcases of may fathers book collection. Later on lots of Science Fiction, Alistair Maclean etc. By about 30 stopped reading novels, too busy doing stuff and living life and reading Anthropology/Sociology mainly about Sri Lanka.

    No TV, and when at home only my sisters for company/play. We were not allowed to mix with neighbor kids. Too common, as in dont speak English, not focused on Education, not Protestant Christians (Catholics dont count, too fun loving) a whole litany of issues. For sure the neighbors were more well off than us. The neighbor kids had fancier toys and we went expensive schools (Uni was free, State).

    Incidentally, am I the only South Asian with a Christian background in this blog.

    Some might find this interesting/relevant , a comment and discussion of English education.
    Some background
    Burgher: Eurasian
    Sinhala Only: Sinhalese was the Official Language in 1956. A few years later Tamil was added an official language too.

    1. Hi Sereno,
      About Ondaatje/Undatchi, a Tamil by that name was taken prisoner from Colombo and sent to south Africa, during the Dutch rule , most probably on trumped up charges. He corresponded with his relatives in Ceylon in Tamil of those days. A Dutch Indologist Herman Tieken , has written a book recently about this correspondence, from a language and society angle.

    2. You are missing a lot by leaving out Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. “Crime And Punishment” is brilliant and “Karamazov” is almost philosophical. “Anna Karenina” is an amazing novel.

      I quite like Michael Ondaatje too, though I’ve only read “The English Patient” and “Anil’s Ghost”.

      1. Kabir,

        I did not have the patience and focus to read thru Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, when I was younger and had more time on my hands. No way will I have the patience and focus to read them now, an age thing I guess.

        I think I read English Patient and Running in the Family. Doesnt really stand out in my memory. Again age maybe, wont make as much impression as on young mind.

        1. I was lucky enough to get to take an undergrad course on “Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky” at LUMS with an inspirational professor almost a decade ago now. We read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations which are supposed to be the best.

          I remember reading “English Patient” but the details are hazy. All I remember now is that the guy is German and the nurse is English (or Canadian). And there is an Indian Sapper named Kip or Kim.

  10. The Ondaatje’s are very interesting. Very Colombo (and large estates in rural area). The are considered Eurasian (Burgher), Colombo Chetty and god only knows. Michael’s brother Chris is now Sir Christopher Ondaatje.

    The Ondaatchiis (Ondaatje) were, originally, from Tanjore South India. Michael Jurie (Jurgen) Ondaatchi was physician to the King of Tanjore. He was summoned by the Dutch Governor Adrian Van der Meyden, in 1659, to treat his sick wife. He treated her with a bath of water in which 23 jungle herbs were boiled. The Dutch Governors wife recovered. Ondaatchi was converted to Christianity in 1660, married a Portuguese wife, Magdalene de Cruz (1640-1688), and adopted the name “Michael Jurgen Ondaatch”. He died in 1714. His son Rev William Jurgan Ondaatchi married Hermina Quint of Holland. Their son was Peter Philip Juriaan Ondaatchi (1758-1814) He had his entire education in Holland. He was a distinguished academic, and poet, publishing books on physics, philosophy and history.


  11. 1. Male
    2. Background is in linguistics, sort of in a gray area between STEM and humanities.
    3. Not a Desi. Middle class white American. Found my way here by an interest in prehistory > interest in archaeogenetics > Razib’s main blog > Razib’s posts on BP, and I’ve stayed on as a regular reader due to an interest in South Asia that isn’t satisfied elsewhere on the internet. Posts about Pakistan have been especially interesting, as I knew nothing but the basic outline of post-partition history before coming here. I don’t even think I’d read anything written from a Pakistani perspective before.

    PS Am I the only one here without a South Asian background?

    1. I’m glad you are interested in the Pakistani perspective. The Indian nationalist perspective tends to dominate most discussions of India-Pakistan relations.

    2. Nor am I. I am Central Asian but with deep interest in and love of Pakistan due to my ex Punjabi gf.

      Pakistan zindabad tha, zindabad hai aur zindabad rahayga!

  12. Namaste/salaam everyone, I’ve been an occasional reader of this blog since stumbling across this space through Razib Khan’s blog. Apart from Razib’s and Omar’s scholarly posts, I enjoy Zach’s provocative yet insightful posts. So thought it’s about time I make my presence known.

    1. Male (sorry to disappoint!)
    2. Aero Engineer, hence yes a STEM’mie (again, one among many here, it seems)
    3. Occasionally practicing Hindu, Tamil Brahmin who’s grown up all over India, currently living in Angleterre after living around Europe for a few years. Not a subscriber to political Hindutva I must add, the south Indian in me is yet too put off by it all.

    I’m engaged to be married to a girl of Sri Lankan Tamil origin (caste origin don’t know/don’t care), and hence interested of late in desi diaspora affairs. Due to my being able to speak non-accented Hindi, I’ve many friends of Pakistani origin so also interested in the confluence of indo-islamicate identities. Qawwali is a recent addiction of mine, to add on to the Carnatic music in my upbringing. I’ll leave it at that for now 🙂 Cheers all!

Comments are closed.

Brown Pundits