Brahmin please!

The shadow of peasant past: Seven generations of inequality persistence in Northern Sweden:

We use administrative data linked to parish records from NorthernSweden to study multigenerational inequality in education, occupations, and wealth from historical to contemporary times. Our data cover seven generations and allows us to follow ancestors of individuals living in Sweden around the new millennium back more than 200 years, covering the mid-18thcentury to the 21st century. In our sample of around 75,000 traceable descendants, we analyze (a) up to 5thcousin correlations and (b) dynastic correlations over seven generations based on aggregations of ancestors’ social class/status. With both approaches, we find that past generations structure life chances many generations later, even though mobility is very high. The persistence we find using cousin and dynastic correlations is much higher compared to a simple Markov model limited to sequential parent-child transfers, but we also find that direct ancestor associations are very small. This suggests that there is a weak but constant kinship influence that attenuates slowly over generation.

These results align with Gregory Clark’s work in The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. Last summer Clark told me that he is done with a draft of a new book that confirms and extends the data and argument from The Son Also Rises: though generational mobility is high in the short term, there is a long term persistence of social and economic status across lineages.

To me, the most striking element of Clark’s data is the persistence of Normans in the British elite. Though 0.30% of the British population at most, they were 16% of the student body at Oxbridge in the 12th-century. The proportion of Norman surnames at Oxbridge did not converge to the population proportion until the late 20th-century! This means it took nearly 1,000 years for Normans to regress (they are still over-represented in the British officer corps).

This tells us that social mobility over the generations is a thing. But, it also tells us that social mobility converges very slowly. This is intuitively surprising because single generation-to-generation changes in status are so extreme that one would predict the converge would happen much faster. Often one sees generation-to-generation correlations of income on the order of 0.50. But Clark’s data suggests that the systematic biases across many generations of status are such that the correlation would be closer to 0.90 to explain these results without an underlying phenomenon.

Why is this relevant? Clark had more access to surname information from Europe. But his data now extends internationally, and Clark claimed that this pattern is a cross-societal, and, the “intergenerational correlation” is very high. This includes India (in fact, some of the material in The Son Also Rises indicates that the correlation is higher in India than elsewhere).

This is the context where we have to understand comments like this:

There are two major dimensions to understand this.

When people are beating you down for being a “terrorist” it doesn’t matter if you are a Brahmin or Dalit, a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. North Indian or South Indian. Light-skinned or dark-skinned. All that matters is that you are brown. There are some people who are white-passing or black-passing among subcontinental origin individuals, but these are the small minority.

Insofar as “white supremacy” is what you think determines the lot of non-white peoples in the United States, talk of caste privilege seems quite silly. It is correct that Indian Americans tend to come from “upper castes” and the socio-economic elite. But what if you think that the only thing relevant about an Indian American with a Ph.D. is that they are a “person of color” (or as they say now a “black and brown body”)? Then that caste/class privilege really doesn’t matter in this country. All that matters is what white people think about you.

But I think this view is wrong. No one in the United States cares you are an Iyer. But what Greg Clark’s data suggest is that it’s not just your name, it’s not just what other people think of you Your inherited “capital” matters. A very dark-skinned Nasrani from a line of doctors may not be comparable to the descendants of slaves and farm laborers. It’s not because they’re Nasrani. It’s because they’re the descendants of doctors.

One or other, both or neither?

Reposted from Zenpundit — Modi or Trump, special or chosen? — with thanks to The Emissary — and closing in on the shining suchness of the Tathagata

Modi of India, Trump of USA?


Trump of USA proclaims himself the Chosen One, while Modi of India’s supporters claim Modi is the Special One.

Who knew?



  • The Emissary, The Special One
  • Giphy, I am the Chosen One
  • .

    Buddhist logic from the beginning differs from its Aristotelian cousin, featuring the chatushkoti or tetralemma:

    India in the fifth century BCE, the age of the historical Buddha, and a rather peculiar principle of reasoning appears to be in general use. This principle is called the catuskoti, meaning ‘four corners’. It insists that there are four possibilities regarding any statement: it might be true (and true only), false (and false only), both true and false, or neither true nor false.

    Hence my title, One or other, both or neither?

    Oh ah:

    speaking of the Buddha, Nagarjuna states that the Buddha’s teaching is “emptiness is suchness, not suchness, both suchness and not suchness, and neither suchness nor not suchness.”


    The suchness of the Tathagata is the suchness of all phenomena.

    Rumor therefore has it that there’s a fifth possibility, a refuge from all dualities: the shining suchness of the Tathagata.


    No, really — please comment!

    Ammar Rashid and the frailty of Pakistan’s state narrative

    ImageI don’t personally know Ammar Rashid, but I know many people like him and many people who either went to school with him or moved in the same circles. Unlike many (most?) Pakistani students who study abroad and develop a deep understanding of the mess that is Pakistan, Ammar Rashid chose to return to his country. He lives his life according to what he believes in (no matter how unpopular those beliefs and ideas may be), and not a lot of people in Pakistan can say that. I heard him singing Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s Intesaab (Acknowledgement) many years ago, and that is my favorite version of that verse ever sung. I do not agree with everything that Ammar believes in (Listen to him eloquently explain his positions here:, he is an officeholder for the Awami Workers Party (AWP), an artist, writer, and a teacher. He participated in the 2018 national elections for a National Assembly seat. He was one of the leaders of the movement to preserve katchi-bastis (slums) in the I-11 sector, Islamabad.

    Why was he arrested?

    He was protesting alongside his comrades against the arrest of PTM leader, Manzoor Pashteen. Pashteen galvanized the youth and adult population in former federally administered tribal areas (FATA) that border Afghanistan. The presence of PTM threatens the ‘national narrative’ put forth by Pakistani establishment that they ‘cleared’ FATA of all militants during the Zarb-e-Azab operation (2014-2017). PTM contends that during and after the operation, military demolished homes and business places of non-militants living there and killed (or facilitated the killing of) many tribesmen who were actually anti-militant (Pashteen wrote about this for the NYT, read here. )

    Following Ammar’s arrest, there were more protests in different cities in Pakistan. In Faisalabad, many protestors were picked up by the police today for protesting against the arrest of Ammar, who was protesting the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen.   This suppression of dissent is reminiscent of fascist regimes around the world. There are not a lot of people as well-read and politically conscious as Ammar and his fellow protestors and muzzling their voices by force merely exposes the fragility of the military’s narrative. The number of people who think like Ammar in Pakistan is probably less than five hundred. Compare that to the numerical strength of Army proper: half a million (and millions of admirers). Since January 2017, when bloggers were abducted by agencies (and later released), there has been an uptick in ‘disappearances’ of progressive activists and students. Due to the abovementioned numerical mismatch, these abductions don’t always get the media coverage they deserve, and mainstream political parties almost never defend these dissenters. In such dark times, just a safe release of these protestors would be a welcome step.

    P.S A twitter thread of tributes to Ammar by creative comrades:


    Junaid Hafeez and Teaching in Pakistan

    I could have been in Junaid Hafeez’s place. He was born in a small town in Punjab and was ‘foolish’ enough to leave a career in medicine to pursue the arts. He got a Fulbright scholarship and studied literature, photography, and theatre at Jackson State University in Mississipi before returning to Pakistan and working as a guest lecturer at Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University. In 2013, he was arrested on charges of blasphemy. In 2014, his lawyer, Rashid Rahman, was killed in broad daylight, and some lawyers in Multan celebrated that killing. According to witnesses, when Rahman’s body was being bathed before being buried, someone was beating the dhol (signifying happiness) outside their house.  This month, Junaid Hafeez was sentenced to death (link from BBC). He has been kept in solitary confinement for years, for his own protection. What was Junaid Hafeez’s fault?

    He chose to say (or just think) things that are not supposed to be said or thunk in Pakistan. He could have chosen to return to the United States or to another country where his life was not in constant danger and where he would not be held in solitary confinement for his own sake. He also chose to teach younger generations and give back to the country, which is also a grave sin in the land of pure. (Read my friend Komail’s experience in his recent piece here).

    Sometime during medical school, I myself got disillusioned with medicine and thought about alternative careers. It took me a few years to figure that out and in the meanwhile, I graduated from medical school and completed the necessary medical training. I also got a scholarship to visit the United States and was writing for blogs and newspapers during that interim period. I got sick and tired of sitting at home and applied to be an instrutor in Anatomy (never my favourite subject but that was the only job open at the time) at a private medical school in my hometown. I had never formally taught a class, much less a class of fresh faced medical students on their first day. I did my best effort to hide my nervousness (using my experience as an actor during med school) and hopefully succeeded. There is not a lot of ‘concept-based’ teaching in Anatomy which made my life hard and the fact that in Pakistan, most med schools spend an inordinate amount of time teaching anatomy that students will never use (2-3 months on upper limb!!). I tried to mix things in, just because i wanted them to pay attention. Some of my first lectures would include a mention of the theory of evolution and anatomic signs of that alongside the scientific method. I once started a presentation with a small biography of Karl Marx that I had written for an urdu newspaper, as the day was Marx’s birthday. I tried to not bring up religion or politics in class (other than that one Marx episode, and I wasn’t even a Marxist!) because i wasn’t teaching them social sciences and didn’t want to get into trouble. I was however once asked what an atheist is, to which i gave a very diplomatic answer. The place was run by a political family, who had bought the land for that med school when one of their members was a local nazim under in the Musharraf era. They ran the school like a traditional patriarchy. Female students were prohibited from openly mingling with their male classmates. They eventually started giving ‘tickets’ to such micreant girls and started calling their fathers when they were ‘found’ talking or sitting with a male. I taught at that place for about a year and then moved to Lahore to start my residency.

    During residency, we were supposed to oversee students during their labs but there were very few opportunities to actually engage them in a conversation. I took a break from residency after ten months to study for USMLE exams and got a teaching job at another med school in Lahore. That place was the worst of my three experiences mostly because it was a diploma mill. It was also a hybrid campus, so med students would attend classes alongside pharmacy, physical therapy and social sciences students. The social sciences segment was a net-negative for the med school since there was a lot of reactionary views (Orya Maqbool was a frequent guest at their events) going on. One day, I was studying in the lab (the only reason I went to campus every day) when a media student came in and asked if he could do a mock interview for his project to which I agreed. He wanted to ask generic questions so I fed him generic answers without delving too much into specifics. Otherwise, that place was quite toxic. The lab staff (high school graduates and diploma holders) treated female teachers (all of them doctors) as their equivalent and misbehaved with them. One of the lab staff tried to sell the annual exam questions to the highest bidders and was caught on tape (thanks to WhatsApp). Before anything could be done against him, he had fled. I felt sorry for the students and their parents who spent millions of rupees on their offsprings’ education.

    No wonder the best and the brightest (not including myself) don’t bother coming back to Pakistan.


    Brown Pundits