From basket-case to garment superpower

This article seems to use Bangladesh as a prop to beat Pakistan’s governing class over the head, Beg, borrow, repeat: Pakistan’s IMF addiction continues even as its finance minister leaves. It’s a pretty strange thing in 2019. In the 20th-century Bangladesh was known for the early 1970s famine, as well as periodic catastrophic floods.

A minimal amount of research will show that it’s not all roses in Bangladesh. There are huge governance issues, overreliance on textiles is probably not a good long-term optimum, and human capital accumulation may not keep up with the shifts toward a high-technology 21st-century economy (most of the world’s population will have to face this though).

So here is the weird thing I want to note: this blog gets about 10x more traffic from Pakistan than Bangladesh. And, it gets 100x more traffic from India than Bangladesh. This blog gets more readers from Singapore than Bangladesh!

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Bring the Kalash to Ladakh!


This was something that was suggested on Twitter (or emerged out of a discussion on Twitter): why can’t the Kalash have the option of relocating to Ladakh? It’s not that different of an ecosystem, and there would be less cultural pressure to change and/or threat of assimilation.

The Indian government imposes a no-contact policy for the Sentinelese for the sake of their cultural and biological integrity (they would probably die of disease). I’m not proposing this for the Kalash, but at least bringing them to Ladakh would prevent the imminent threat of assimilation, though the individual appeal of Delhi would still be there.

There’s a lot of anger from Hindu nationalists online. Often toward Muslims. I get the reasons. But this is something that is constructive and positive. The Kalash are not a fossil race. But they preserve something that is unique and soon to be lost to the world.

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The end of the Kalash is nigh

Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all the Kafir Kalash bend the knee to the one true God!

I think anyone who has given it any thought knew that this was inevitable and just a matter of time. That time seems to be now. The Kalash compensated for conversion with higher endogenous fertility, but if it is true that educated young women are converting to Islam, their ability to reproduce their numbers will decrease rapidly.

Anxious Times In Pakistan’s Pagan Valley Rising Islamic Influence Pressures An Ancient People:

Naveed is a member of the Kalash, a pagan community known for their fair skin that has long inhabited this area near the border with Afghanistan. The Kalash people, many of whom believe they are the descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great, have held on to their religious beliefs and colorful rituals for centuries, even as a sea of Islam has encircled them.

But the unique traditions of the Kalash are coming under mounting cultural pressure as the pace of conversions to Islam accelerates within Pakistan’s smallest ethnoreligious community. The Kalash population currently numbers between 3,000-4,000, and locals estimate that some 300 of their members have converted to Islam over the past three years, The Washington Post reported in November. Some local reports, however, have said the figure is not that high.

First, to preempt genetic comments: the Kalash do not descend from Europeans like Alexander’s Macedonians, as such. Rather, they are a mix of Indo-Aryan steppe ancestry, with a base of Iranian farmer (the largest component probably), along with a residual but non-trivial amount of indigenous deep South Asia ancestry (AASI in other posts). It is probably fair to say that they are among the most Indo-Aryan peoples in the Indian subcontinent, but the recent work on the Ror people indicates that some Jatt groups are similar.

Second, the fact that they are not Muslim to this day is simply due to the contingencies of history. The Afghan conquest of nearby Nuristan in the last decade of the 19th century resulted in the wholesale conversion of the pagans of that region. The fact that the Kafir Kalash were on the British side of the border meant that they were spared forced conversion.

And so almost magically deep into the 21st century, we got a window into the world of Indo-European customs and practices of the descendants of the Andronovo and Sintashta cultures, relatively isolated from the primary stream of what became Hinduism to the south and east and Zoroastrianism to the west (both of which interacted with non-Indo-European indigenous elements). The sun is setting on these people, whether through forced conversion, or the attractiveness of modernization and assimilation into the dominant culture of Pakistan.

In a few generations, they will be but faint memories to their descendants, and a single thread of the many threads of human cultural history will vanish forever.

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Indian Muslims are more latitudinarian than Pakistani Muslims

There is a lot of talk on this weblog. Probably because this is South Asian focus, and we tend to be a loquacious people on the whole (some more than others). But I decided to look in the World Values Survey in regards to the question of whether believers believed their religion was the only acceptable religion.

Before some of you ask about methods and cross-tabs, the website has a late 1990s interface. You too can use it and look up facts!

(also, Hindu intolerance surprised me a bit, though not too much)

Continue reading “Indian Muslims are more latitudinarian than Pakistani Muslims”

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Browncast Episode 30: Philippe Lemoine on philosophy, politics, French immigration & The European Union

A creature of the night

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’m toying with an “AMA” on a YouTube live stream for “Patrons” only another benefit. Since there aren’t too many Patrons it might be a simple thing to do if no one shows up!

But I would definitely appreciate more positive reviews. Many of you listen to us, but don’t leave any reviews!

Best with Bourdeaux

This week we talked to Phillipe Lemoine, a philosopher, pundit, and data scientist. Phillipe has his own blog, but I would also recommend his pieces in Jacobite magazine

Informally I think of this episode of the BrownCast as “frawg-talk.”. We addressed Phillipe’s intellectual journey, from computer scientist to philosopher of science to data scientist. How he got involved in various assorted issues, and hard-headed analysis of migration into France, as well as sanguine attitude toward the European Union.

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What is in a name?

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Martin Luther was the key figure in the precipitation of the Reformation.

The name Martin:

Martin may either be a surname or given name. Martin is a common given and family name in many languages and cultures. It comes from the Latin name Martinus, which is a late derived form of the name of the Roman god Mars, the protective godhead of the Latins, and therefore the god of war….

And Luther:

As a German surname, Luther is derived from a Germanic personal name compounded from the words liut, “people”, and heri, “army”. As a rare English surname, it means “lute player” (Hanks and Hodges 1988). Luther is also derived from the Greek name Eleutherius. Eleutherius is a cognate of the Greek word eleutheros (έλεύθερος) which means “free.”

I bring this up because it is curious and notable to me that apparently is common for converts to Christianity in India (I’m setting aside traditionally Christian groups such as Nasranis) to take a “Christian name”. One of the arguments is that you shouldn’t have names which refer to a pagan god. Someone should have told Martin Luther. The Anglo-Saxon kings retained the myth of descending from pagan German gods long after their Christianization (they obviously didn’t believe it literally, though they still refused to let go for the prestige).

About ten years ago I read a book about the Islamicization of the core Muslim world. In particular, there was a curious feature of the process that occurred over three centuries in Iran. There was a chart of the form:

The records were clearly from sub-elite individuals. People from whom records remained due to their service or taxes paid. What one sees is that for several centuries the proportion of classical Iranian names drops as the number of local landlords who are non-Muslim drop….and then as the Muslims become overwhelming, there are individuals who are known to be Muslim who are being given classical Iranian names all of a sudden.

The link between being non-Muslim (generally Zoroastrian) in rural Iran among sub-elites and having an Iranian name disappeared when the number of non-Muslims declined to the point where they were not a major community (outside of isolated areas such as Yazd).

In a similar manner, Bangladeshi Muslims often have more ostentatiously Arabic names than Pakistani Muslims, who reflect more Iranian and Central Asian influence. The Bengali  Muslim intelligentsia is a recent creation of late modernity, balancing its sincere religious beliefs with an ethnic identity distinct from the post-Mughal Islamicate culture further up the Gangetic plain and into Punjab (the Muslim elites of Mughal era Bengal did not speak Bengali as their high language, and the early Bengal Rennaissance was due to Hindu gentry). The extremely Arabic names are probably one way to emphasize one’s Muslim bonafide in a cheap manner.

My own children have conventionally Western forenames (though not generic ones). The reasoning is straightforward: they are being raised in a conventional white American milieu. I have no religious attachments obviously, nor am I passionately ethnic, outside of some food preferences. Their South Asian heritage is part of their past through me, but the future is different, and the names reflect that.

Going back to names…it’s ridiculous to say that they don’t indicate deep culture dynamics. The hyper-Muslim people in my family don’t make recourse to Bengali pet names. My father, whose father was an ulem, did not have such a pet name.  As the lineage secularized, with my father, pet names in Bengali reappeared.

Since I am not a believer and am unlikely to passionately convert to some religion, I don’t know the motivations and psychology. And people are free to do what they want. But the idea that conversion to Christianity necessitates a name change seems ridiculous to me. The first Christian king of Sweden was Olof Skötkonung. The first Christian Roman Emperor was named Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus from birth to death. Could think of a name more Scandinavian or Latin Classical?

Though it is common in the Islamic world to have distinct names rooted back to the Middle East (Indonesian Muslims being an exception), there is far less uniformity in Christianity. And yet many Christians adopt this pattern. Why? Similarly, white converts to Hinduism sometimes adopt Indian names. Why?

The post is not so much an argument for anything. But an observation that opens up a discussion….

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Browncast Episode 29: Zaid Jilani on the discourse, the primaries, and culture

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…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

Today I talk to Zaid Jilani, who runs the Extremely Offline podcast, among other things.

We talk about his current project, trying to bring people with different views together, as well as where his own views came from. Zaid also dished a little dirt on Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, and talked about growing up in the “Dirty South” (OK, he didn’t say it was the “Dirty South”, but it was the sort of rural South). Finally, we talked a fair amount about Democratic party politics and primaries, a topic which Zaid has a lot of knowledge of.

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BrownCast Podcast episode 27: Zach on why he’s an Islamophobe and why he hates PewDiePie

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…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

Today Zach and I talk about his evolution in relation to Islam. In particular, why Zach has become vocally and unapologetically Islamophobic recently, and what the difference between Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice is. I also ask Zach what his problem white people, and in particular PewDiePie, is.

And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

– Genesis 16:12

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