Brown Pundits Browncast episode 52: Sahil Handa, National Review intern and cosmopolitan conservative

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes, Spotify,  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. I am toying with the idea of doing a patron Youtube Livestream chat, if people are interested, in the next few weeks.

Would appreciate more positive reviews!

On this episode, we talk about cosmopolitan conservatism with Sahil Handa, a writer at National Review. Sahil is a student at Harvard. As such, I had assumed he was American before he got on the call…but it turns out he is from the suburbs north of London! His father is a Punjabi from Kenya, while his mother is a Sindhi from Gujarat.

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Generations don’t exist, and neither do “immigrants”

Don’t mess with Razib

I have heard it stated by some scholars that generations don’t exist, but cohorts do. That is, our bracketing of ranges of people into particular generations is artificial and bins what is truly a more continuous variable into a few categories. The same criticism applies to the Myers-Briggs typology in personality (the main reason psychologists prefer the “Big Five”).

But the flip side of this issue is that to talk reasonably about some phenomenon you have to bin and categorize continuous variables. Human races may not have hard and fast boundaries, but human genetic variation is difficult to talk about unless you use some categorical shorthand.

Some of the same applies to the term immigrant and native-born. The reason I’m putting up this post is that there was a discussion online about whether there can be something called a “second generation immigrant.” That is, someone whose parents were born abroad, but they themselves were born in the country of their citizenship. Myself, I think the term immigrant should only apply to those who were born abroad. Native-born and immigrant are disjoint distributions.

But, there are more than a few categories here within the dichotomy. When you arrive in your life, and where you arrive, matters a great deal.

Continue reading “Generations don’t exist, and neither do “immigrants””

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No honor among brownz

Subway Got Too Big. Franchisees Paid a Price: Sabotaged meatballs. The wrong soap. Franchisees say supervisors manipulated inspections — then took their stores. A company ‘hit man’ says it’s true:

That was when Ms. Greco took over Subway, and the company’s store count began to shrink. In the East Bay, Mr. Tripathi was under the jurisdiction of a development agent named Chirayu Patel, known as Akki. He oversaw a huge, choice territory that included most of Northern California and western Nevada. Mr. Patel also owned dozens of Subway stores.

I was curious about this story because when I was in college Subway was my “fast food” of choice. But it was interesting to see that under the surface of a story about corporate malfeasance was another about South Asian (Indian) petty corruption. There are whole entrepreneurial subcultures in the USA which are highly South Asian, and conventional business reporters are probably missing some dynamics.

Here is another about Sikh truckers in California.

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Brown Pundits Browncast episode 51: Scratching the surface on Sri Lanka

Lord Ravana

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes, Spotify,  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. I am toying with the idea of doing a patron Youtube Livestream chat, if people are interested, in the next few weeks.

Would appreciate more positive reviews!

Today I talk to my friend “Nan”, who is a Sri Lanka Tamil American. We talked a bit about his own background, growing up in a lower SES household in the American South, but mostly about why and how Sri Lankans think they are distinctive from “mainlanders.”

This is just the beginning of trying to understand this issue in my opinion. Ergo, “scratching the surface.”

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A darker shade of brown

Sharon Muthu

On the individual level who you find attractive and what you find attractive is your own deal. I’m not one to go exhorting anyone to anything. To be frank I find “campaigns” to make x more attractive a bit cringe. It’s like the joke about having to explain to someone that actually you are very attractive!

That being said, it’s interesting to observe cultural patterns, differences, and trends. I do not, for example, perceive women with natural epicanthic folds to be less attractive in any deep sense. But the surgery to create folded over eyelids is a “coming of age” practice in much of Northeast Asia, especially South Korea because it is seen as more aesthetically pleasing. This is a new trend triggered by Western norms, as prior to the past century the more common Asian look with epicanthic folds was considered more beautiful.

This brings me to South Asians, and beliefs, attitudes, and opinions about skin color. Years ago I read that Indian (Tamil) American actress Sharon Muthu was lost a part where she would be playing an Indian character “because she didn’t look Indian.” The director, in this case, was a white American. He admitted she nailed the audition, but optically he didn’t think she’d be plausible as Indian to the audience.

This goes to show that the Bollywood aesthetic has come to define what “Indian” looks like even in the West! Muthu is on the darker side, but not anymore atypical than may lighter-skinned Bollywood celebs.

Sendhil Ramamurthy

I am very jaundiced about many aspects of South Asian (which means mostly Indian American really) American culture, but one thing that is striking in contrast to the culture of their parents is that there is little attention to skin color. In fact, there are multiple instances where I’ve heard people say that the parents thought someone they were dating was too dark.  This is probably a function of the fact that in an environment where all brown people of various shades are bracketed together, it’s a little ridiculous to make the sort of distinctions that are common in the Indian subcontinent.

Speaking as an outsider to brown culture (my wife is white, most of my close friends are not brown, my children are mixed, etc.) and community, so often when I see an Indian or Pakistani actor or actress they look like older versions of Zayn Malik, the half-Pakistani and half-English teen idol, or an Italian actress with a bigger nose. In general, I laugh, and a lot of American-born/raised brown people I know laugh too.

On the other hand, American South Asians are among the most privileged in the world. The people consuming Bollywood, and Tollywood and all the other woods, are the broad middle and lower classes of India, and their choices do shape what gets put on the screen.

When I was visiting Bangladesh in 2004 many of the posters of actresses I saw were notable for two things:

  • They were fairer than the average young Bangladeshi woman
  • They were plumper than the average young Bangladeshi woman

My prediction is as Indian audiences get more affluent, and self-confident in themselves, the actors and actressse will start looking more and more like better look versions of the average Indian, rather than cut-rate Jaggus and Jagginas.

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The limits of semantics; Hindus before Hinduism

When I was a 20-year old atheist I would read books on the philosophy of religion and explore arguments for and against the existence of god(s). Though I was never naive enough to think that just if people could be exposed to arguments against the argument for design people would be atheists, I wouldn’t have rejected it out of hand.

This is not a view I hold on to in any way because I believe religion as a social-cultural phenomenon is too complex and multi-faceted to reduce to a set of philosophical propositions. The “god of philosophers” ultimately misses the point of the reason so many people believe in god, and what sustain’s religion. But because the philosophers write the histories and dominate the priestly class, they have rewritten religion in their image.

A more complex view has to be brought to bear when we talk about ideas such as the “invention of Hinduism” by the British. If one limits the term “Hindu” to its utilization to point to a self-conscious and concise confessional community unitary across South Asia and disjoint from that of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, etc., then one can assent to the proposition that the “Hindu identity” was “invented” relatively late in history.

But this is a piss-poor resolution to understanding the dynamics of human cultural evolution in South Asia.

As I have noted before, 1,000 years ago al-Biruni presented and anthropological understanding of the religion of Hindus that is totally recognizable and comprehensible to us. I say here “religion of Hindus” because he was referring here to the people of India, Hindus, rather than a religion called Hinduism. This is a shading which refines the descriptions with more precision, but if you actually read al-Beruni you notice that the term “Hinduism” is pure semantic sugar. It doesn’t add much substance, though it tightens up the style. He clearly outlines a religious system and communal identities which we would recognize today as Hindu.

For the philosophers and intellectuals, religion can be reduced down to particular parameters. My own view is that when people say a “Western view” of religion, they are actually alluding to the conception that arose out of the Calvinist framework, which strongly informed the American conception in relation to church-state interaction (and, in some ways, modern atheism is the child of the demystified Calvinist cosmology). Even within the West, this highly rational, confessional, and individualistic, understanding of religion is an artifact of the past few centuries, and not normative across all Christian traditions and societies.

When it comes to this weblog the usage of terms always needs to be framed in the context of their times. If you speak of the “Sunni-Shia” conflict of the 7th-century, you need to realize this is highly anachronistic. Sunni Islam, as we understand it, only developed organically over the centuries in reaction to the claims of the party of Ali and his scions, those who became Shia. Similarly, if one talks about “Hindus” in the context of Maurya India, one realizes that one is bracketing a host of philosophical schools and religious sensibilities which are at variance with Buddhism and Jainism. One can argue whether the term “Hindu” is more or less informative, but one should also understand that one can extract significance from the term even before its 19-century maturation.*

* I would be personally cautious about using the word “Hindu” before the Gupta period, but think that it makes sense after that, even if there was no a self-conscious Hindu religion for many centuries after. Your mileage may vary.

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