Open Thread – 09/19/2020 – Brown Pundits


The comments are open(ish).

Finished India in the Persianate Age. This was a much more fluidly written book from Eaton than other stuff I’ve read from him, probably because the Mughal narrative “writes itself.” Recommended.

Probably will take reader advice and focus more on “primary sources” from now on. Though finding good translations is always an issue then…

Also, check out the podcast with Matt Yglesias. And another one with Anand Kadali on hunger in India.


Open Thread – 08/22/2020 – Brown Pundits


The usual.

But I’ll make a comment here. I am of the school that thinks facts matter a lot. Many of you trade in standard Hindu nationalist tropes and generalities about Islam. As someone who told Shadi Hamid on our interview, I am not a big personal fan of Islam, I don’t really mind people fearing Islam. I have personal experience of the religion after all.

But, facts matter. And a lot of the “facts” that get bandied about here are false.  I won’t tolerate that. There are two general categories I will point to:

1. First, people take traditional Muslim historiography at face value. You shouldn’t. This is like taking Christians at face value when they talk about the Four Gospels are pure positive history, when they were finally compiled and redacted decades later. Whether Muhammad exists is an empirical question in the same way that whether Jesus exists is an empirical question. As it happens, I’m modestly confident both figures existed in some form but were quite different from what Christians and Muslims depict them as (I do suspect that Josephus was a later interpolation).

The broader issue here is that Muslims on the whole have not gone through the modernist transition in regards to a critical-rationalist take on their religion. In Christianity, traditionalist-fundamentalists exist, but they have to take dialogue with modernists as a given. They exist in large part as reactions to modernism. This is not the case with Islam. Muslims accept that non-Muslims reject their religion, but within Islam, there is not a strong rationalist engagement with their texts that applies the sort of criticism than the Germans pioneered within Protestantism in the 19th century. That means they present a “unified face” about their early history which too many non-Muslims take for granted. Islam with all of its constitutive elements is not truly recognizable to us until about 850 A.D.*

2. Because this is a blog with a South Asian focus a lot of Hindu nationalist tropes and facts get presented at face value. I don’t really mind them as mythologies that give people succor or create their identity, but a lot of them have as much factual basis as a pagan Mecca: not much.

Most of the Hindu nationalist commenters do reflect a reality of “lived experience.” As someone who grew up around South Asian Muslims, I can admit they have total contempt on the whole (there are exceptions) for Hindus and their “bizarre” beliefs. But, as someone who is personally anti-Islam and literally tolerant of diverse views, many people from Hindu backgrounds of all ideologies have told me what they really think of Muslims, and the contempt is returned.

My issue is always when people turn their personal experiences into deep historical insights. Do not do that if you don’t enjoy me jumping down your throat, because if I’m not busy, I will do so.

More broadly, lots of Indian readers would benefit from reading more history. Especially non-Indian history. A broad cross-cultural perspective is essential, so do more!

For the curious here are a few books:

China: A New History
History of Rome
A History of the Byzantine State and Society
A History of the Arab Peoples: Updated Edition

* The Shia-Sunni split starts to become discernible in a way we’d recognize, Hadith culture is already on track to marginalize the “philosophers” and Hellenists, and the ulema centered around madrassas spread from the east to the west.


Open Thread – 08/15/2020 – Brown Pundits


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.


Open Thread – 08/08/2020 – Brown Pundits


I’m traveling with my family a lot this week. Please stay under the control, because if you get out of control I’ll be more kludgey in my response than usual.

Also, to be frank, I would appreciate it if every thread doesn’t devolve into arguments between guys you can imagine whacking off to physical anthropology image plates illustrating racial types from National Geographic in 1930. As they’d say in 1930, everyone beyond Calais is a wog.


Open Thread – 08/01/2020 – Brown Pundits


I think when we started the Brown Pundits Browncast we planned a ~1 time a week affair. As it happens it’s not that regular. The Browncast will be gone for 3 weeks, and then come back every other day for a week. Really you should subscribe at one of the options (just click the link in the strip above the latest podcast).

If you want to hear the podcasts early, please become a Patron. I do post them early. Sometimes hours. Sometimes days. Now and then weeks. And on an occasion here and there months. There is also a podcast you can’t hear unless you are a patron since the person interviewed was up for a government position, and they thought it would be best to remove all public opinions for the moment.

The open threads are getting super long, and I will try some non-WP option at some point. Also something with a killfile. I’m pretty relaxed on censorship with the open threads…but at some point, the nastiness is going to turn people off.

I am frustrated by the historical ignorance of many readers of this weblog and “India” Twitter. So a question, if there are three history books someone should read on the West, India, and China, what would they be? I have plenty of suggestions but I’m wondering what the reader would say.

I’m not going to post a separate show notes episode for Kushal Mehra and myself talking about caste, but it’s up.


Open Thread – 07/25/2020 – Brown Pundits


So How Asia Works is very discounted on Kindle in the USA. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.

In light of the increased comment activity on this weblog, I ask commenters to shy away from too many stupid comments. If you think you may say something stupid, please be cautious, because I may just delete it. My role as a moderator is basically to periodically engage in some ‘natural selection’ and apply some pressure. This is not something that is up for debate.

There is no schedule for the podcasts, but another will be dropping within the next few hours, and more stuff is going to be recorded tomorrow, and I just recorded something today on foreign policy with Richard Hanania.


Open Thread – Brown Pundits – 7/18/2020


Just a reminder, I contributed a chapter to Which of Us are Aryans? Some of you are probably skeptical of this book because the editor is Romilla Thapar. You know who that reminds me of? Kabir! He, the master of pollution and contagion (perhaps he’s descended from Brahmins?).

I’ve noticed that there is an increase in rudeness recently. I am pretty lax on the “Open Thread”, but if it doesn’t start to get more in control soon I’m going to start randomly deleting comments. Some of you enjoy writing comment-novels, it would be a shame if something happened to those…

Due to the popularity of this website, I’m going to have to spend some time figuring out how we can scale getting 500 comments on one post in 5 days. The WP install I have isn’t really designed to handle that and the front-end scripts are clearly starting to strain under that. In consideration of my time invested, please consider joining the Patreon (which also totally defrays the cost of hosting and editing the podcasts).