The airstrikes

Indian Jets Strike on Pakistani Side of Kashmir Line:

Indian warplanes conducted airstrikes in the Pakistan-controlled side of Kashmir on Tuesday, Pakistani officials said, in an escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed nations after a suicide bombing against Indian troops in the disputed region this month.

If confirmed, it would be the first time that Indian aircraft had crossed the Kashmir Line of Control to strike in years. But it was unclear what, if anything, the attack jets hit on the Pakistani side, raising the possibility that India was making a calculated bet to assuage public anger but minimize the risk of a major Pakistani military response.

Curious about value-add thoughts….

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Do people in India care about ‘racist’ knitters?


There is a weird controversy about a white knitter who was perceived to be racist against Indians because they were worried about going to India because it was so alien from her experience? At least that’s what I get from the conversation. See the above exchange for some more context.

The mainstream website Vox, published something relating to this, The knitting community is reckoning with racism. The post shows that this is really about Americans more than about Indians. For example:

As someone who is mixed-race Indian, to me, her post (though seemingly well-meaning) was like bingo for every conversation a white person has ever had with me about their “fascination” with my dad’s home country; it was just so colorful and complex and inspiring. It’s not that they were wrong, per se, just that the tone felt like they thought India only existed to be all those things for them.

The author of the piece is a mixed-race American. Her mother is Irish American, and her father an immigrant from India.

My question is simple: what do people in India think about this?

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Indians in Kerala are less religiously polarized, those in Bihar are more polarized


Because some commenters on this weblog have a lot more lived experience within India than I do, you try to bullshit me. I suspect it, but I can’t prove it.

But I realized today that World Values Survey is broken down by region within countries. This means I can at least doublecheck some of the crazy assertions some of you make.

What I did is pretty simple: I selected India as the country and then selected regions as the first variable. I crossed it with a question about how much people trust those of other religions.

One thing that jumps out of the result is that trust across religions is highest in Kerala. There isn’t a huge difference across the north, but it seems lowest in Bihar. This makes sense.

These sorts of single results need to be treated with caution. The main issue is that respondents are usually asked in their native language, but word choice can bias the outcome.

I invite readers who are interested in bullshitting less to look at the WVS themselves. Raw table below the fold (with N’s).

Continue reading “Indians in Kerala are less religiously polarized, those in Bihar are more polarized”

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Brown is all, all is brown

There emerged a question in the comments below as to what was “brown” or “desi”?

Ah, the old demarcation problem! Since there is no “Pope of Brownness” we can all offer our opinions. I take a “liberal” and “broad” view.

There are children adopted from India in the United States who are as physically South Asian as anyone. But often they were raised as English-speaking American Christians. Though many attempt to reconnect with “their culture”, the reality is that their family is the family who adopted them. Their culture is the culture in which they grew into adulthood. But, because of the way they look people make assumptions about them. Perhaps people are racist against them as South Asians.

Despite their involuntary cultural alienation from all things South Asian, I have a difficult time thinking that these kids are not brown. Especially if they so want to identify as such.

In contrast, you have the case of people of various races who convert to religions with a South Asian provenance or were raised in those religions. Imagine someone whose parents convert to Hinduism, and raise them in India, but they are half Japanese and English American. They don’t “look” Indian. Brown. Or desi. But if they are raised in India, and practice a form of Hinduism, and speak Indian languages, I have a hard time saying that they don’t have a right to “claim” being desi or brown.

There are obviously many other cases. But I wanted to present these two as opposing and inverted instances, as I think they are the boundary conditions of what desi or brown identity is. People can say what they want about themselves. They could be an Iyer raised in Chennai who claims that they’re really not Indian or desi. Or, someone could be a Russian Karelian who is devoutly Orthodox who claims they Indian. I suspect most of us would think that this is nonsense. To be brown or desi does have boundaries.

But we can make the boundaries crisp and tight. Or broad and loose. For example, to assert that to be desi one has to be a believing and practicing Hindu who is racially South Asian would be a narrow definition.

Or, we can make them broad.

As an American, a broad definition works best for me. My children may not speak a South Asian language, worship Hindu gods, or look particularly “Indian.” But of their eight great-grandparents, four of them were born in British India. They have some claim I think to that heritage and identity, if not as strongly as those genuinely encultured.

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BrownCast Podcast episode 16: Native Americans and a globalized world

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at 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…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

This week we’re doing something different…but also something you are going to have to expect. The “BrownCast” and “Brown Pundits” are labeled “brown” because the founders of this weblog are brown. We are obviously interested in Indian/South Asian/Desi topics…but that’s not all we are. In fact, the three original founders, myself, Zach, and Omar, are confirmed dilettantes.

One of the “privileges” of being white is that you are interested in whatever you want to be interested in. You don’t just opine on “white” topics, you opine on the world because the world is your canvas. In the year 2019, my own opinion is that more nonwhites need to decolonize their minds, get over white people and their fraught relationship with a race which dictated the terms of the 19th and 20th centuries and grasp the chaotic, polycentric, and globalized 21st century with two hands.

Cross the threshold. Step into the future. It’s interesting…if sometimes a bit too interesting.

The conversation in this podcast starts out with specific concerns and questions about how Native Americans in the USA are reacting to the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren. Brett Chapman lays out the concerns of his own people rather well. He is a lawyer, so that is to be expected! But, the conversation moves to issues relating to Catalan and Scottish independence, and reconsiderations of the sacrosanct nature of the Eurocentric Westphalian system.

Native American experiences are not just particular, they’re universal, and global.

This is 2019 and the 21st century. Two Americans, one a brown 1.5 generation semi-immigrant, one a Native American, and a brown Briton, get together and have a discussion about continental European politics. It’s our business. The world is our business. And our business is the world.

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Pakistan’s #1 in newborn mortality rates!?!?!


Sometimes you read things you need to double check on. World is failing newborn babies:

1. Pakistan: 1 in 22
2. Central African Republic: 1 in 24
3. Afghanistan: 1 in 25
4. Somalia: 1 in 26
5. Lesotho: 1 in 26
6. Guinea-Bissau: 1 in 26
7. South Sudan: 1 in 26
8. Côte d’Ivoire: 1 in 27
9. Mali: 1 in 28
10. Chad: 1 in 28

Let’s let that sink in. Pakistan has worst mortality rate for newborns than Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Nations riven by conflict, warfare, and general underdevelopment.

I wouldn’t mind if someone pointed out how there is an artifactual bias in the above analysis. The numbers are horrifying, especially in light of the fact that Pakistan is more prosperous than most of those countries.

You shall judge a nation by how it treats the least amongst us.

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Why do South Asians have heart disease?


Why Do South Asians Have Such High Rates of Heart Disease?:

Some of the most striking findings to come out of Masala relate to body composition. Using CT scans, Dr. Kanaya and her colleagues found that South Asians have a greater tendency to store body fat in places where it shouldn’t be, like the liver, abdomen and muscles. Fat that accumulates in these areas, known as visceral or ectopic fat, causes greater metabolic damage than fat that is stored just underneath the skin, known as subcutaneous fat.

…. Cardiovascular risks tended to be highest in two groups: those who maintained very strong ties to traditional South Asian religious, cultural and dietary customs, and those who vigorously — embraced a Western lifestyle. Those with lower risk are what the researchers call bicultural, maintaining some aspects of traditional South Asian culture while also adopting some healthy Western habits.

This discrepancy plays out in their dietary behaviors. Almost 40 percent of Masala participants are vegetarian, a common practice in India that is widely regarded in the West as heart healthy. But vegetarians who eat traditional South Asian foods like fried snacks, sweetened beverages and high-fat dairy products were found to have worse cardiovascular health than those who eat what the researchers call a “prudent” diet with more fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains (and, for nonvegetarians, fish and chicken). People who eat a Western style diet with red and processed meat, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and few fruits and vegetables were also found to have more metabolic risk factors.

I think one of the issues with the “traditional” lifestyle combined with modern affluence is that they aren’t actually eating like their (our) ancestors would eat. Though fried snacks and sweetened beverages are acceptable in vegetarian diets, I doubt that this was on the menu for many Indians who lived on vegetarian diets in the past. The two “bad” dietary options are really converging on modern processed/high cal diets from different pathways.

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What to read if you don’t want to read Guha

In the podcast with Kushal Mehra he made an offhand comment that it was strange that conservative American intellectual Ben Shapiro was reading India After Gandhi to understand his country. Mehra’s confusion is simply that Shapiro is on the Right, but he is reading from the perspective of Indian Left to understand India. Though probably hyperbolic, perhaps it would be like a Hindu nationalist reading Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States to understand America.

I know there are issues India After Gandhi. My friend Reihan Salam thought that Amardeep Singh was entirely too uncritical when he blogged the book many years ago. Since I have no read the book I will not hazard to offer an opinion.

But, the question then remains: what books on Indian history should an American read to offer up some balance? This is a live issue, as an American conservative friend was himself considering reading  India After Gandhi before being taken aback by Mehra’s comment about Shapiro and his reading habits.

Please leave book recommendations!

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