The many ways of being Brown Diasporic

An admission: I have no idea what half of Zach’s posts are about. More clearly, they’re written in English, but there are so many references to Indian/South Asian pop-culture and drop-ins of Hindi-Urdu words that I have no idea what he’s talking about. It might as well be Greek. Often after 30 minutes of Google, I get it, but it’s pretty funny because technically we’re both English-speaking brown people living in Anglo countries.

There are different kinds of brown people. Some of them are well talked about. For example, ABCD vs. “FOB” culture. But it’s way more subtle and diverse than that.

For example, I have a friend who grew up in Canada, who is from a South Indian Brahmin background. But, it turns out that the only Indian language she knows is Hindi, because of the people she grew up with. I am not good with languages. I have primitive fluency with Bengali, though I can’t read it, and absolutely no firsthand knowledge of Hindi or Urdu. A lot of Diasporic South Asians though drop-in in Hindi-Urdu words into their speech and a lot of us have no idea what you are talking about (I share this reaction with a lot of people of South Indian background raised in the USA, who don’t know Hindi).

Zach is a “Third Culture” person in a traditional sense. I really am not…my parents left Bangladesh in 1980, and did not raise me among many Bengalis or even South Asian people. Better to describe me as American culture + an accent/perspective of something very different.

0

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.

3+

What is in a name?

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-02-09 15:57:42Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

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….

1+

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

1+

All things “Brown” with the Brown Pundits – thoughts on the Carvaka Podcast

Further to Anan’s post below I thought I would share a few thoughts of my own below.

BrownCast Podcast episode 15: conversations with a Carvaka

I enjoyed doing the video cast with Kushal and Omar (Razib was unfortunately not able to join in).

I let myself “go” in this podcast since I had to get up at 4.30 in the morning to get it done so I thought I earnt a bit of a respite.

Ordinarily I’m rather reticent on the podcasts since they aren’t my guests and I also don’t want to venture too many opinions; surprisingly I’m becoming more circumspect in my old age.

At any rate it was a great discussion lots of fun and my penchant for dramatically diverging the conversation was rather welcome (Omar was very on point and it was refreshing to see that Kushal was opinionated as opposed to simply querying).

We did a fair amount of India-Pakistan but I don’t think they were the conventional perspectives. I also have to acknowledge my own biases stem from my background and life experiences.

I wrote a longer post but I decided to private blog it since I didn’t feel it was entirely relevant and I meandered (as I do).

All in I enjoyed the conversation and I found Google Hangouts a surprisingly easy interface. It’s a nice feeling to be “Live”; it was so dark that I didn’t want to switch on video but perhaps I should have and treated the audience to the dawn of a new day..

3+

How Indian are Pakistanis (vs. non-Indian)

I was sent this link via Twitter, Pakistanis are Arabs:

OK – so clearly that’s nonsense … but while I have your attention ..

Back in 2012, the Aspen Institute held a discussion called “My Middle East” featuring authors from around the “modern Middle East”. This included participants from various Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each author was given an opportunity to provide insight into their unique Middle Eastern experience. The brilliant Daniyal Mueendin was representing Pakistan. When it was his turn to speak, he started rambling about how the question was confusing to him as he was not a Middle-Easterner and so didn’t really know what to say – in other words, he missed the point completely i.e for all practical purposes (and particularly from the perspective of the audience) his cultural experience was Middle Eastern enough. I should add that the participants from Turkey and Afghanistan had no such problems. To me this brought to the fore an issue that’s been bothering me for a while namely a tendency among affluent, liberal Pakistanis to underplay Pakistan’s cultural affiliation with the Greater Middle East and instead fixate eastward, towards India, for such cultural linkages.

To be frank there is no substance I can see to the blog post, just some assertion. After reading this I am more convinced that Pakistanis are South Asian and shouldn’t be included as part of the “Greater Middle East,” because the argument presented is so weak, vacuous and contentless.

Pakistanis, especially the ones who are from Pashtun backgrounds, are more Middle Eastern than other South Asian peoples, even Muslims from Uttar Pradesh. I don’t deny that. But the dominant Punjabi culture of Pakistan is South Asian. Indian if you want to remove the term “Indian” from its current political valence.

Note: It is not surprising that this is the question where some of our local Hindu nationalists agree with Pakistani nationalists. Reality damns them both.

0

A toxic cocktail of American narcissism and Indian American self-righteousness

Like many of you, I’m monitoring what’s going on in the Indian subcontinent. I’m not saying much because I don’t know much. No value to add.

But then this showed up in my timeline, and I honestly could not believe that the confluence of characteristics we’ve been talking about recently might lead to such bizarre self-obsessed comments:

I see this person’s comments in my timeline way too often. Best case scenario is that she’s some sort of ideological grifter who knows how to push buttons. But this indecent.

1+

I now support quotas on (South) Asian Americans at elite universities (a)

This is a follow up to:

I now support quotas on (South) Asian Americans at elite universities

Video gets especially interesting 16 minutes in. Some main take aways:

  • Almost half of all people in the world are Asians. Having a similar ratio of Asian students at elite US institutions is being “diverse”
  • Many different parts of Asia are extraordinarily diverse with many different cultures (Vietnam, India, China, Indonesia). Allowing Asians into elite American institutions enhances diversity.
  • Asians top every metric for admissions except personality profiles, where Asians consistently rank far lower than any other group.
  • Mass discrimination against Asians creates segregation at schools since non Asian kids need to receive different separate remedial classes. Many non Asian kids at elite institutions upon entry lack the math skills to take entry level classes.
  • Asians use to be America’s only reliable Republican voting block (for example backing George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996). The 2016 and 2018 elections are the first time Asians have overwhelmingly voted Democrat. Asians now vote more Democrat than Latinos.
  • Many Asians think they can change Democrats from the inside. And they have had some success. They have persuaded many Democrats to vote for Asian interests on affirmative action.
  • In the last 6 minutes they discuss how the massive over representation of Asians at elite educational institutions is causing a major shift to the left
    • There are surveys of incoming freshman students. They reflect America and their parents. Or center right.
    • Exit surveys of senior students find that they have shifted sharply to the left. They trend left to socialist to communist upon graduation.

My own observation is one that several leading academic professors have also noted. High School Asian American kids, particularly Desi ones, often have contempt for their parents, Asia, older Desis, Asian culture and Asian religions. They are often deeply ashamed and guilty about their Asian privilege and about the ways Asians practice “white supremacy”, racism, bigotry, prejudice, sectarianism, hate, oppression, exploitation towards others. There is a sense that the reason Asians are so successful around the world is because Asians steal from others. This phenomenon extends to undergraduate students but is still not common among Asian Americans over 22 years old.

How much of this phenomenon is being driven by self hatred, self loathing, guilt and a contempt for Asian and Desi cultures and religions? What if anything can be done about this?

As a partial aside, Brown Pundits podcast plans to interview some practitioner Dharmics (including Buddhist, Jain, Sikh) professors in academia. One question we can ask them is how much anti Dharmic phobia comes the indoctrination of Dharmic children in high school and undergraduate university against Dharmic faiths.

0

I now support quotas on (South) Asian Americans at elite universities

A Harvard Law Professor Is Representing Harvey Weinstein. Students Say This Makes Them Unsafe, Demand His Resignation:

Harvard’s administration is taking students’ concerns seriously, and has agreed to conduct a review of Sullivan.

“In this situation, we would like to have a more complete understanding of the current environment at Winthrop House,” wrote Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in an email, according to The Harvard Crimson.

One of The Crimson’s own staff members*, Danukshi Mudannayake, is spearheading the effort to remove Sullivan. She started a change.org petition that claims his representation of Weinstein as “not only upsetting, but deeply trauma-inducing.” According to Mudannayake, Sullivan has made clear that he does not “value the safety of students he lives with in Winthrop House.”

The American system is upsetting. To be frank, it’s a feature, not a bug. Presumption of innocence exists not in cases where it is easy to support the innocent, but in cases where it is hard. In the United States of America there are people who commit horrible crimes, and lawyers who defend them and lawyers who prosecute them. This is all part of the system.

It is tough on the heart. But it works. Unlike some societies, the will of the majority does not dictate the outcome (in theory).

Seeing those names was like a punch in the stomach. This is not the sort of “model minority” that I’d like to encourage.

1+

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?

0