The Afro-Asian world

It’s 2020. 2050 is close enough that population projections out to 2050 are going to be feasible and you can trust the projections.

In 1950 Europe & its offshoots, North and South America and Oceania, were 35% of the world’s population. In 2050 they will be 20%. It will be an Afro-Asian world.

 

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Browncast Episode 92: Amrit Pati on Swab for India

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.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

This week talked to Amrut Pati about his new project, Swab for India. Amrut’s father Mahesh was diagnosed with leukemia and needs stem cells from a HLA match. But, because there aren’t many people from the Indian subcontinent in the databases the odds are long. This is contrast with the copious matches for people of European background.

Amrut has now made Swab for India his fulltime job.

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Browncast Episode 91: Jacob Shapiro on the EU, China, and the Geopolitical Impacts of Coronavirus

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.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

This episode features Omar, Mukunda, and Akshar talking to Jacob Shapiro, a very knowledgable geopolitical analyst, where we have a free ranging and free flowing conversation about various topics like the state (or lack of) the EU, Chinese diplomacy, Turkish ambitions, and the question of American dominance amongst other issues. You can find him on his Twitter where he’s always giving great, nuanced perspectives on complicated geopolitics with particularly great takes from his newsletter.

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A Mongol India, a pagan India?

On Twitter there was a thread which posited what “might have been” if the Mongols had forthrightly smashed the Delhi Sultanate and added India, at least its north, to their vareigated domains. After the death of Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire split into four broad political-geographical zones.

– to the north and west, was the Golden Horde. These Mongols and their Turkic subjects battered Europe held suzerainty over the principalities which succeeded Kievan Rus and bickered and battled with the Il-Khanate to their south.

– The IlKhanate centered around modern-day Iran, and for much of its early period controlled the Levant, much of Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.

– The Chagatai Khanate, which occupied Central Asia, to the west and east of the Altai and Tien Shan (roughly, Transoxiana and modern Xinjiang)

– The Yuan, which encompassed China and Mongolia

Genghis Khan’s conquests occurred in the early 1200s. By the 1300s all of the three “western” domains took up Islam as the primary religion of the Mongol elite. The Yuan in the east remained non-Muslim, mixing patronage of Tibetan Buddhism with the Mongols’ customary shamanist Tengrism. When they were expelled from China they retreated to Mongolia and the descendants of the Yuan ruled Mongolia until their integration into the Manchu Empire in the 17th-century.

One thing that is illuminated in Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road is that the eastern Mongols flirted with adopting Islam before they finally shifted to Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th-century. Some of their leaders took Muslim names and seem to have adopted the trappings of Islam, before falling away.

Though the transition of the western Mongols toward Islam differed across the three Khanates. The IlKhanate ruled over mostly Muslims. The fact that for several generations Muslims were ruled by Tengrists, Buddhists, and Christians (Persian Christianity had a foothold in Mongol in the 12th-century) was always a tension. Ultimately, the IlKhan conversion to Islam was not of major consequence because the IlKhanate collapsed earlier than the other domains.

The Golden Horde adopted Islam in large part because that was the religion of the Turks who comprised the majority of the nomads in the confederation. But, in the early period, the Golden Horde was hegemonic over many Christian regions, and the majority of its subjects may have been nominally Christian. And yet the Mongol elite was naturally assimilated into the Turkic elite, not the Christian princes (though they did intermarry with the Christian nobility, and some Lithuanian and Russian noble lineages have Mongol ancestry from the Golden Horde).

The Chagatai Khanate’s adoption of Islam in the 14th-century was ironic, because Chagatai, one of the sons of Genghis Khan, was a fierce Mongol traditionalist who personally detested Islam. As with the Golden Horde, the Islamicization of the Chagatai lineage seems to have been a function of the reality that the non-Muslim Mongols swam in a sea of Turkic Muslim subjects.

Which brings us to India. Most readers of this post will know that the Mongols had various military encounters with the nascent Delhi Sultanate, but ultimately India never truly became a part of their empire. But what if it had?

The person who initially posted this counterfactual fantasized about the destruction of Islam in India because the Mongols were against Islam. This is objectively not so. In the 13th-century, the Mongols were religiously peripatetic and latitudinarian. The only “higher religion” that they were initially familiar with was the Persian Christianity of their Kerait and Naiman neighbors. Most of Genghis Khan’s sons married Christian women from these tribes.

Though Genghis Khan himself took to developing a special relationship with a Daoist adept, repeatedly the early Mongols seemed to exhibit a strong affinity toward Tibetan Buddhism, prefiguring the Mongol mass conversion of the 16th-century. Buddhist lamas were presences in both the Golden Horde and the IlKhanate, and Persia in the 13th-century saw a renaissance of Buddhist temple building.

My initial thought about the counterfactual is that the Mongols would surely have become Muslim, as they did in the Golden Horde, because of the large number of Turkic Muslims present in India. The analogy here is with the Golden Horde. In the Golden Horde Mongols and Turks shared the same mode of production, as pure pastoralists and rent-seekers. Mongols who lived a sedentary lifestyle may have eventually simply been absorbed into the Russians.

But then I began thinking: what about the Yuan dynasty example? Here Mongols used Muslims as an intermediary caste with the local population, and never became Muslims themselves. Additionally, while the Han Chinese did not have a military caste (the military profession had a low status in China at the time), obviously India’s Rajputs were a local group of non-Muslims with whom the Mongols might identify. Many of the Mongols were already nominally Buddhist, and so concepts such as Dharma might be familiar to them.

So let’s imagine a fork where Mongols arrive as non-Muslims, and somehow establish a synthesis with Hindus and eventually assimilate as a Hindu caste. This is not totally crazy. In 1228 the Tai Ahom arrived in Assam. They were already partially Buddhist, though eventually, they became Hindus.

Of course, many Hindus want to know: would this be the end of Islam in the subcontinent? I don’t think so for two reasons.

First, the Mongols were generally religiously tolerant. This often held even after their initial conversion to Islam, which was often quite nominal and practical. It seems unlikely they’d wage a religious vendetta against Islam as such. The Turks and Afghans who arrived in the earlier decades would probably simply go into service with the Mongol Khanate. Eventually, they’d be the core of a religious minority in a post-Mongol but Hindu dispensation. This is what happened in China, where many of the Chinese Muslims clearly descend from Central Asians and Turks who arrived with the Yuan.

Second, there may simply be structural reasons why Muslim Turks would move into India no matter what at some point. India was rich. The Turks and Afghans were not. Additionally, as pastoralists and nomads with ready access to horses, the Central Asians had structural advantages against local polities, who could not mobilize the whole of local economies. I suspect, to be honest that the Mongols would only arrest and delay a process that was inevitable.

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Browncast Episode 90: With Kushal Mehra, Indian lockdown, Covid19, Things to come..

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.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

In this episode we talk to Kushal Mehra of the Carvaka podcast, about lockdown in Mumbai, Indian response to Covid19, Covid 19 in general, and what comes next…

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Are the (TV) Mahabharata and Ramayan “Right Wing”?

In 1987 and 1988, India’s official (and at that time, only) TV channel (Doordarshan) broadcast serialized version of the famous Indian epics, the Ramayan and the Mahabharata. The series were hugely popular and with no competing TV choices, there was the kind of nationwide common viewing experience that is less and less common in the internet  and cable TV age. I dont know if Left-liberal Indians (mostly Hindus themselves) were agitated at that time (i dont remember it being an issue, but I was not really reading Indian media at that time) but over time a narrative has developed that the broadcast of these serials led to a rise in Right wing Hindu nationalism, which culminated in the demolition of the Babri masjid by a Right wing mob in 1992.  THe subsequent rise of the BJP to power is then the next step in a sequence that began with the broadcast of these “Hindu” serials.

As India has gone into lockdown due to Covid19, Doordarshan has announced that it is going to rebroadcast these serials. This step has revived the complaints about these serials being the first step in the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, exemplified by tweets like this one from “engaged historian” Audrey Truschke:

To me, as an outsider, this is quite fascinating. It seems that there is a significant segment of the Indian intelligentsia (which hapens to be the dominant faction in terms of foreign coverage of India; Western news organizations almost all pick up their own view of India via these “native informants”) that believes that: Continue reading “Are the (TV) Mahabharata and Ramayan “Right Wing”?”

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What is a civilization?

Thinking about the Harsh Gupta podcast and what “civilization” is. What is this identity? how does it form and cohere?

In The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order Samuel Huntington emphasizes religion. This makes total sense to a person from South Asia. Religion has become the major fault-line in the Indian subcontinent. But is it justified? I think it is. The ecologist-turned-quantitative-historian Peter Turchin has suggested that “higher religion” is a “meta-ethnic” identity. That is, an identity that transcends tribe, ethnicity, and race.

Contrary to what racial nationalists like to think, historically race has not been a major cleavage. Fair-skinned Frankish Crusaders intermarried extensively with the Christian Armenian nobility of the Near East when they arrived. No matter that genetically Armenians are very similar to peoples of the northern Levant.

These bonds are abstract and higher-order. They are not visceral and concrete. Aside from the most extreme goat-beards growing up in the United States as a Muslim of South Asian origin we never saw Muslims of other ethnicities outside of religious festivals. Arab contempt for non-Arabs was palpable. Persian superiority toward non-Persians was palpable. Rather, it was common to socialize across religious divisions for people of the same regional-ethnic background. And yet if you pinned my father down he would aver that his ultimate loyalty was to the co-religionists of different nationalities with whom he literally never broke bread.

Similarly, Indian Americans have a soft spot for Tulsi Gabbard, because she is a Hindu.

But East Asian society is different. Religion and religious identity has never been at the center of those societies. The insights from one culture are not generalizable to another.

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Browncast episode 89: Dr Sunny Anand, part 2

Our conversation with Dr Anand was interrupted due to technical problems, so we recorded another session. This is session two of our talk with Dr Anand..

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!

As mentioned in last week’s session, Dr Sunny Anand is a highly esteemed Pediatric intensivist at Stanford who also works with the heart to heart foundation and provides quality heart surgeries and cardiac care across India (and other countries) in collaboration with Sai Sanjeevani hospitals. He talks about his work, the services provided by this chain of completely free top-of-the-line heart surgery centers, healthcare in the India and the United States, etc.Kanwaljeet J. S. ("Sunny") Anand, MD, has joined Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children's Health as the new division chief of palliative care & critical care medicine. (Photo: Business Wire)

Those wishing to learn more about the heart to heart foundation (chaired by legendary cricketer and gentleman Suni Gavaskar) can check out their website here. 

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Open Thread – Brown Pundits

Talk about what you want. I assume even if you are dying of COVID-19 it will be something about Hindu/India vs. Muslims/Pakistan.

(we’ll be recording a podcast on COVID-19 with Kushal Mehra if you have any questions for him)

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