Open Thread – 08/15/2020 – Brown Pundits

76 Comments

Dog days of summer..

One of the things with Indian American analysis of Indian culture/politics is the unselfconscious filtering of it through an American lens, rather than Indian. It’s annoying to listen to news shows where they interview an Indian American about Indian culture, and the interviewer and guest proceed to discuss Indian culture through the lens of American concerns, without ever acknowledging what’s going on. To give an example, talking about ‘colorism’, but immediately pivoting to anti-blackness.

0

Yugant / युगान्त : Book Review/Recommendation

22 Comments

Yugant / युगान्त is a critical and rational analysis of Mahabharata by the Irawati Karve – the anthropologist, sociologist, educationist and writer from Maharashtra, India. She was the daughter in law of Dhondo Keshav Karve – a reformer from Maharashtra.

Yugant confronts various versions of Mahabharat analytically and tries to make sense of character arcs and motivations. Intelligently analyzed without religious respect but with literary respect. The motivations of Pandavas for marrying Draupadi as the Royal Queen are very well explained. The literary accounts of chats between Dhritarashtra and Gandhari & those of Draupadi’s death are very well written and move your heart. Krishna (Vasudeva) stands out not only because of the brilliance of his character but the wonderful analysis and the crisp unraveling of his motivations. The Arya (Kshatriya) Dharma is explained in Krishna and Yugant chapters. The author enthralls with deep and intelligent writing in the final chapter that resonates wonderfully even in the 21st-century internet age. The sincere and irreligious comparisons of Mahabharat Era – Arya Dharma to contemporary Hindu religion and other Prophetic Faiths are interesting. Throughout the book, the author refrains from applying current Zeitgeist as a yardstick – something which is refreshing in 21st century polarized analysis and debates which always have political undertones. Even without a direct running story arc – the arrangement of essays offers a wonderful climax – especially Krishna and Yugant chapters.  With recent elevation of Heroic Karna in Indian literature and thought, a look back of the character of Karna as seen in 1950s-60s is a pleasant change.
Surprisingly the argument for conservatism offered at times by the author towards the end – is also a stimulating one.  Further readings of Mahabharata (Bhandarkar critical edition) may lead to various disagreements with author’s positions at various points – but that has to be expected, especially for a text as dense and significant as Mahabharata.

Post Script:

I have not read the English edition. I cant vouch for the  English version. The analysis is very well explained in the original Marathi editions. Some of her work – especially on Anthropology is hotly contested today, but IMHO her MO is very relevant even today.

A recent twitter thread on the Author:

This book is easily available on Amazon in India in both languages. The price on Amazon.com appears unreasonably high.

 

 

A note for Traditionally inclined Hindus  – None of the analysis is reverential but it avoids the viewing of Mahabharata from western lens. 

 

 

0

Indian woke wear saffron

164 Comments

Hindutva is Indian woke culture. This may seem like an odd statement to make because a) woke-ism has specific post-War American civil rights antecedents and some have argued for a deeper causal link with Puritan Protestantism which roots it even further back, and b) it is a movement of the self-avowed Left Liberal. But if you are willing to look past the superficial differences, I don’t think there is much separating them at all.

Continue reading “Indian woke wear saffron”

5+

Why there will never be an “India Lobby”

25 Comments

Back in the 2000s on the Sepia Mutiny blog I would get frustrated with commenters who would talk about India as if it was analogous to Cuba or Israel, in that a group of American nationals with family ties could influence the shape of American policy. This was always a crazy proposition.

The reason that focused American ethnic lobbies could shape Cuba and Israel policy is that these are small nations which to be frank don’t matter that much.

There’s no Germany lobby. There’s no Russia lobby. There’s no China lobby. These nations are too important to get caught up in pure interest group politics. Similarly, there will never be an “India lobby.” Even personal relationships and affinities between leaders are irrelevant when realpolitik is too important. Think of the fact that Trump clearly has an affinity for Putin, but the American government continues to impose various sanctions on Russia.

Note: Because of its embeddedness in the Great Power jockeying between the USA, China, and India, there will also never be a “Pakistan lobby.”

2+

Browncast Episode 120: Gaurav Lele, Liberal from a soft Hindutva background

126 Comments

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

in this episode we talk to Gaurav Lele. Gaurav is a software engineer in Pune who identifies as an liberal Indian from a family with some RSS connections, so he is able to see “both sides” to some extent. He is also an impressive human being in that he seems to be willing to change his mind based on evidence.. Gaurav also writes on Medium and Culture Trip , including a very interesting long post on Pakistan.  Gaurav Lele

3+

Why Hinduism is not inchoate paganism

62 Comments

An individual, who I have come to conclude is a troll after further comments (they are banned), mentioned offhand that Hinduism and/or Hindu identity is reactive Islam and the British, and that its origins are in the 19th century. This is a common assertion and presented recently by one of our podcast guests. I myself have entertained it in the past. It’s not prima facie crazy.

But I have come to conclude that this is not the right way to think about it. Or, more precisely, it misleads people on the nature of the dynamic of Indian religious identity and its deep origins. This is why I think Hindus themselves self-labeling ‘polytheists’ or ‘pagan’ can mislead people. Not because these are offensive terms. People can refer to themselves however they want. But these terms have particular relational resonances with other groups, periods, and peoples.

One can point to al-Biruni’s external observations about Indian religion, or Shijavi’s personal opinions in his correspondence, to make a case for Hinduism and Hindu identity (using both terms to avoid troll-semantic ripostes) being older than the 19th century. But this is not the argument that is strongest to me. I have spent many years and books reading about the cross-cultural emergence of religious identity, and its change, in places as diverse as Classical Rome, post-Arab conquest Iran, and 7th century Japan, to name a few places. Many of these places and times had local religious cults and practices. In all of these places, they were assimilated and absorbed into the intrusive “meta-ethnic” religion. In Rome, Tibet, and Japan, the religion had major initial setbacks, but eventually, the meta-ethnic “higher religion” came back and captured the elite.

In the modern world, we see massive Christianization, and to a lesser extent Islamicization, in Sub-Saharan African. The traditional religions persist, in particular in West Africa, but history is clearly against them. Importantly, most of the religious change occurred after the end of colonialization.

The relevance of this is clear. The Indian subcontinent would be an exception for all these above cases if the vast majority of people were unintegrated animists with only local religious cults. The precedent from Europe and the world of Islam is that Brahmins and a few other pan-Indian groups (e.g., Jains) would persist as religious minorities, while the vast majority converted to the newly introduced meta-ethnic religion.

Continue reading “Why Hinduism is not inchoate paganism”

6+

The Indo-Pakistan problem — To be or Not to be

54 Comments
Wagah Border

THIS ESSAY WAS WRITTEN IN 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the URI ATTACKS with the aim of bringing some nuance in the increasingly binary discussions of Pakistan. Looking back at it in 2020 there are a few points in the essay I mildly disagree with but on the whole, I stand by my arguments. 


For anyone willing to read a shorter -TL-DR version find the link HERE:

Note: This is not a scholarly analysis of Indo-Pak question but an essay ((*mildly subjective)) on the question with references being presented for most of the essay. 


Every well-read Indian who has thought enough about the India-Pakistan issue will have faced Hamlet’s dilemma — “To be or not to be”. It’s fair to assume that national patience, with everything related to Pakistan, is waning very fast nowadays aided by the explosion of social media. Simply put — most Indians have had enough of this shit for 69 + years (the Idea of Pakistan being older than Pakistan). The leftist solution to the Pakistan problem has always been the Aman ki Asha narrative. The reactionary position of some of the Right-wing is to totally boycott anything related to Pakistan every-time a terrorist attack takes place in India. This position though backed by popular opinion at times like this seems to be no closer to a permanent solution to the problem. To come up with potential solutions for this problem, we need to discuss both these approaches and we also need to dig deep into the Nation-state of Pakistan.

 

Continue reading “The Indo-Pakistan problem — To be or Not to be”

0

Browncast episode 118: Tony, Indian Liberal

35 Comments

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

In this episode we talk to Tony, a self-identified liberal Indian. We talk about how liberal Indians feel about India’s current trajectory and future prospects..

0

Kashmiri Brahmins are just like other Kashmiris

12 Comments

I think I’ve posted this before, but it was a while ago before we had so many readers. In this paper they took 15 random Kashmiris from the Valley, and compared them to various populations. The plot below, as well as admixture analysis in the paper, shows no daylight between the Pandit samples and generic Muslim Kashmiris.

This is not to say Pandits are not an endogamous community and were not before the Islamicization of Kashmir. But, it is to say that in their overall genome their origins are exactly the same as other Kashmiris. This is in contrast to many parts of India in regards to Brahmins, though the “stylized fact” seems to be the further north and west you go, the smaller the genome-wide difference between Brahmins and non-Brahmins will be. This seems to comport with the idea that Brahmins are intrusive to the south and east in a way they are not to the north and west.

Finally, the data from ancient DNA is strongly suggestive of “AASI-reflux” across north and west South Asia after 3000 BC. See my post The Aryan Integration Theory (AIT).

1+