The maritime origins of the Munda

A reader pointing me to a paper whose hypothesis is novel to me. But, I have to say that reading the paper, I am now convinced this is highly likely. The paper is The Munda Maritime Hypothesis:

On the basis of historical linguistic and language geographic evidence, the authors advance the novel hypothesis that the Munda languages originated on the east coast of India after their Austroasiatic precursor arrived via a maritime route from Southeast Asia, 3,500 to 4,000 years ago. Based on the linguistic evidence, we argue that pre-Proto-Munda arose in Mainland Southeast Asia after the spread of rice agriculture in the late Neolithic period, sometime after 4,500 years ago. A small Austroasiatic population then brought pre-Proto-Munda by means of a maritime route across the Bay of Bengal to the Mahanadi Delta region – an important hub location for maritime trade in historic and pre-historic times. The interaction with a local South Asian population gave rise to proto-Munda and the Munda branch of Austroasiatic. The Maritime Hypothesis accounts for the linguistic evidence better than other scenarios such as an Indian origin of Austroasiatic or a migration from Southeast Asia through the Brahmaputra basin. The available evidence from archaeology and genetics further supports the hypothesis of a small founder population of Austroasiatic speakers arriving in Odisha from Southeast Asia before the Aryan conquest in the Iron-Age.

For me, the Brahmaputra migration always implied that Bangladeshis should have lots of Munda ancestry. And yet that is not clear from genetics (though a few individuals are shifted in that direction). In contrast, they do have a strong affinity to the Khasi. This paper proposes that the Khasi are quite distinct from the Munda.

Rather, the Munda are placed further south, and their arrival in South Asia was through maritime means. One of the possibilities suggested is a relation to the Aslian subgroup of Austro-Asiatic languages in central Malaysia. This could actually help explain the enrichment for AASI in the Munda: the indigenous Negritos of Malaysia are similar to the people of the Andaman islands!

Remember, the arrival of Austro-Asiatic farmers in northern Vietnam dates to ~4,000 years ago. The Munda could be relative latecomers to South Asia…

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Our history is serious and not a game

Some of you are probably not amused by the jokes I try to make about AIT and Lord Indra. I hope it’s pretty clear I’m not serious about all of this…it’s just that people take these issues so seriously.

I’ve changed my mind on the “peopling of India” question several times since I began to take a genetic interest in the topic around the year 2000. That’s because the genetic and archaeogenetic technology and data has gotten better and better with every passing year. We can answer questions with power and precision that we couldn’t even imagine asking a few years ago.

Some of you are asking questions that are already answered in the supplements of the Narasimhan paper. From page 260:

With respect to South Asia, our key finding is that people with ancestry like the Kushan individuals can be excluded as important sources of the Steppe pastoralist-related ancestry that is widespread in South Asia today. In particular, the East Asian-related admixture (via Steppe_LBA ancestors) that characterized the Kushan individuals is nearly absent in South Asia. We formally confirmed this inference through qpAdm modeling that excludes the Kushan individuals, as well as nearly all the other Iron Age and historical period individuals from other cultural contexts that were published in two recent studies (29, 30) as plausible sources for the Steppe pastoralist-related ancestry in South Asia (Fig S 50).

Though culturally and historically significant, like the Muslims, the earlier steppe people that are prominent in Indian history don’t seem to have made a major genetic impact.

The question has been answered. And that’s good.

In the comments below some readers are asking about whether arguments have been won. Knowledge and science proceed through argument. But let me be clear here: I am not invested in a particular outcome, I am haunted by the possibility that we can know the truth of things. As a child, I was fascinated by history, but I always knew that I was going to go into science, because science progresses, while history circles in argumentation. What ancient DNA has done has been to illuminate the darkness of the demographic past. This is not the totality of human history, but it serves to provide a critical and precise scaffold on the questions we ask and the answers we come to.

The American Academy is so ideologically blinkered and biased that I am not going to throw stones any longer when I see people in other nations engaging in this sort of behavior. This is the world we live in. Knowledge is not furthered through institutions in anything more than a proximal manner. The results, the data, are out there. We need to grasp them and interpret them for ourselves. The truth is ours. If we choose to take it.

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This is your independence day!


Twitter tells me that this is India’s independence day. Since I didn’t know that this was the case until this morning, I obviously have nothing deep to say. Except let me enjoin the people of India and its leadership class to one thing: do not be haunted by the past, look to the future.

The 2004 film Troy emerged in the wake of the sword & sandals boomlet triggered by Gladiator. It won’t be remembered for much longer, but there is a speech that Brad Pitt’s Achilles make to his soldiers. He tells them that immortality is there for the taking, but they need to grasp it.

Though there are clearly broad forces of history at work in which individuals, and even nations, swim, there is still agency. The world is what we make of it within the boundaries of reason. We must all grasp our agency, and shake off the dead weight of the past at some point…

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They’ll protest more the more they are wrong


A friend seny me the above clip. Some comments:

* The affect, style, and mannerism is very familiar to me. It reminds me of Muslim and Christian Creationist public speakers, who exhibit an air and manner of incredible confidence to audiences who want what they have on offer. Validation. Confirmation.

* The citations of the scholarly literature indicate that the theories of are based on some provisional work…but notice the shift from provisionality to refutation and vindication in the presentation. Just because it is in peer-reviewed journals does not mean it is true.

* Civilization comes from India is the conclusion. The above speaker is sophisticated and intelligent, but the ultimate rub is the same as Indocentric fabulists of the past.

In the past few years, genetic evidence on human differences has become more obvious. The reaction, in the West, is to declare even more strongly that no differences exist, or even could exist. Westerners and Indians are probably very similar, at least the activist sorts that consider these sorts of issues. In the near future, a substantial amount of ancient DNA will be published in India which will resolve current questions to all those approaching it with an open mind. But the ideologues will become even more strident and marshal greater and greater numbers of irrelevant citations.

They believe because it is absurd.

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India After Gandhi: $1.99 Kindle Deal

I know many people are critical of Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy (e.g., my friend Reihan Salam is not a big fan), but Amazon is running a Kindle Deal on it (at least in the USA). So it’s $1.99 currently.

The original book was published in the 2000s, but this is a “revised and updated” version. So I assume it has a bit more on the last 20 years. Whatever you think about it, it is probably worth reading at some point.

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Genetic change, cultural coherency, and social structure

A stupid commenter (SC) below keeps opining that the high frequency of R1a across South Asia is due to non-paternity events (NPE). I’m not quite sure SC knows what NPE is. It is, “when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is not in fact the biological father.” The hypothesis presented seems to be that outside of the Northwest of the subcontinent, the high frequency of R1a among non-Brahmin populations is a function of cuckoldry.

I think this is a stupid hypothesis for several reasons.

  1. Star phylogenies tend to extend outside of their core sociocultural group (e.g., R1b in Basques)
  2. NPE events outside of ethnicity seem rare given how endogamous South Asian jatis are.
  3. NPE in Eurasian societies seem to be 1-3%.
  4. There isn’t autosomal variation in ancestry within South Asia jatis usually. E.g., autosomally Tamil Brahmins or Chamars don’t vary much. This is in contrast with Mexican Americans or African Americans, who show a great deal of biogeographic variation in ancestry because they are a recently admixed population.

But, in the interests of making lemonade out of SC’s lemon, it’s interesting to observe other cases of disjunction between genome-wide ancestry and Y chromosomes. For example, let’s look at the Hui, Chinese-speaking Muslims.

The most likely origin of these Muslims is during the Yuan dynasty. So about 750 years ago. They were probably originally Central Asian, and so a mix of West and East Eurasian. Around 40% West Eurasian Y chromosomes from the beginning is not totally unreasonable if Islamicized Turks were a substantial proportion of the Muslims. If 5% of their total genome is West Eurasian, it’s probably reasonable to assume that 10% of their total genome derives from Muslims, if the original Muslims about half West Eurasian and half East Eurasian in ancestry.

750 years is 30 generations. My back of the envelope calculations suggests that 7.75% exogamy with Han Chinese per generation would result in a 50% West Eurasian population become a 5% West Eurasian population.  Another way to frame this is about ~90% of the ancestry of the original founding group has been replaced. But what about the Y chromosomes? Even assuming 100% West Eurasian Y chromosomes, the decrease has not been of similar magnitude.

The answer is simple: the dilution could have been mostly female-mediated. China is a patrilineal society, and Central Asian Muslims are also patrilineal. Though there are exceptions (there is a Hui branch of the Kong family due to one of the descendants marrying a Muslim woman and converting to Islam), it seems reasonable to infer most of the gene-flow into the Muslim community was through women. And, women do not have Y chromosomes, and so do not replace that lineage, though they do contribute to the total genome.

This is not an isolated case. There are populations around Lake Chad which carry ~1% Eurasian autosomal ancestry, but with Y chromosomal fractions of R1b, which is Eurasian, on the order of ~20%.

The opposite case can also occur. Because of male-biased European gene-flow to Latin America, populations such as in Argentina can have a very high fraction of indigenous mtDNA, passed from mothers to their offspring, despite the total genome being mostly European.

Which brings us back to South Asia. Though R1a is associated with “upper caste” populations, the reality is that it is widely distributed in South Asia. Including tribal groups such as the Chenchus and Bhils.

The Chenchus are an interesting case. The only groups nearby with high frequencies of R1a would be South Indian Brahmins, who are genetically very distinct. In fact, Brahmins from the four southernmost states of the peninsula are very similar in their proportions of distinct biogeographic components. And, there is not much inter-individual variation. The Chenchus, in contrast, seem to be typical ASI-shifted tribal people from South India.

In an NPE model the ~25% R1a ancestry is due the fathering of sons by Brahmin males, who were raised by their Chenchu mothers as Chenchu (and presumably raised by Chenche males as their own sons). The problem is that then ~12.5% of the ancestry of Chenchu should be Brahmin. This introduces a noticeable steppe shift, and though 12.5% is a small fraction, one should be able to detect it. Additionally, if the R1a entered the population through introgression every generation, there should be variation in ancestry among the Chenchus as a function of biogeography.

I simply don’t see this in the data for the Chenchu. What could explain their high fraction of R1a?

There are two things to consider. First, these marginalized groups often have low effective population sizes due to extreme endogamy. This means the power of drift at a single locus, such as the Y, is strong in these groups. It is not unreasonable to posit some groups, such as the Chenchu, would drift to a higher frequency.

The second dynamic is the one alluded to above: the Chenchu descend from a compound of groups, and a core paternal lineage of R1a bearers was assimilated into a larger population. I see the expansion of R1a across South Asia as greatly synchronous with the development of the ethnolinguistic landscape we see around us. Tribal groups such as the Chenchu are not primal, but part of an ethnolinguistic tapestry which crystallized in the period after the fall of the IVC and the reemergence of India into history in the 6th century BCE.

Note: Will delete dumb comments

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Between Marx and the mullah

There is a lot of talk on this weblog about deaths in premodern conflicts. I want to clarify a few points, at least from my perspective.

Both ancient DNA and conventional history and archaeology indicate that massive population turnovers occurred in the past. If you read a book like Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy, you note that there is plenty of record of massacres and killings in targeted fashion during the Mongol expansion. The chaos and demographic collapse induced by the Mongols have been implicated in reforestation across vast swaths of Central Eurasia (which may then have produced climate change!).

We can also look to the deep past, and the more recent past. Latin America is characterized by incredible admixture between people of disparate ancestries. This is due in large part to 1) demographic collapse on the part of native peoples 2) migration of settlers from Iberia 3) transportation of slaves from Africa.

The evidence from Europe and South Asia is also strongly suggestive of massive population replacements. Depending on your model parameters about 50-75% of the ancestors of modern Northern Europeans who were alive 5,000 years ago had descendants who were intrusive to Northern Europe. Another way to say this is that 50-75% of the ancestors of modern Danes did not live in Denmark or nearby regions 5,000 years ago. A similar number for South Asia seems to be in the 10-30% range (again, depends on your model parameters).

This elicits the question: was there genocide?

The evidence from Latin America is clear. Though there was targeted genocide on the part of the Iberian conquerors, on the whole, the deaths were mostly due to the introduction of Eurasian diseases that resulted in a cascade of consequences which resulted in famine (the Black Legend is propaganda which has influenced our modern perceptions). When a human population lives on the Malthusian margin, small perturbations can result in death due to starvation. In the case of Latin America, it is known that incapacitation of a large enough proportion of prime-age adults due to illness resulted in famine, as crops were not planted or harvested in quantities necessary to sustain villages.

In other words, population collapse was a function of reduction in labor inputs into agriculture.

And, the reality is that the Iberian conquerors, who were often younger sons of aristocratic lineages, were not inclined to engage in mass-slaughter due to the reality of their aspiration of becoming rentiers. The importation of African slaves was to a great extent a direct consequence of shortages of exploitable labor (along with the humanitarian concerns of enslaving natives). Contrast this to the situation in the Phillippines or India, where Asian peoples provided resources to support leisure-seeking European elites.

A second fact is that premodern states were not capable of the sort of coordinated genocide that has been seen in the 20th-century. They lacked the weaponry, information technology, and organizational capacity to be particularly efficient. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the coordinated genocides against Christian groups in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman realm occurred in the modern period (Armenians and Assyrians). The older Ottoman state was neither efficient enough nor did it have the means, to engage in total exterminationism (I also believe that 19th-century European-style nationalism probably made exterminationist feelings more ‘justified’ as well).

Probably the best premodern instance of ethnic cleansing we have on record is the Spanish expulsion of the Moriscos, which occurred on the basis of presumed blood lineage, not belief (e.g., many sincere Christian Moriscos were expelled as well!). But, that effort was incomplete and patchy, effective in some areas, totally ineffective in others, and haphazard in the criteria utilized (e.g., many people with Morisco ancestry were not expelled, while families which had been sincere Christians for generations were expelled).

Which brings me back to the earlier cases. What happened in Europe and India to induce population change?

There are several things going on in my opinion. First, not all late Neolithic/early Bronze Age societies had developed an ideology of elite exploitation to the level that we’d take for granted in the modern world. By this, I mean that the leaders of these agro-pastoralist societies may not have viewed farmers of different ethnicities as potential subjects, and so wealth. In conflicts between hunter-gatherer populations often warfare results in very high mortality rates, with young children and young women of the losers assimilated into the winners. There was no ideology of group assimilation for young men into an alien population, and in societies without specialized professions and economic systems, these men might not be seen as valuable in any sense except as consumption slaves (servants for powerful people, not economic producers).

In other words, conflicts between primitive societies can be thought of as “animal conflicts,” where two groups fight over resources and don’t view the losers of the other group as resources. In contrast, societies over the past few thousand years have tended to see the defeat of the enemy as a potential for elites to accrue new subjects from which they can extract rents. This was one of the arguments made to Genghis Khan by one of his Khitai advisors as to why he should not clear the land of northern China of people so as to create pastures for horses and sheep. People were more valuable than horses and sheep. He would be richer with more people.

Of course, these are people with spears (and later swords). I don’t think that most of the demographic collapse was due to direct killing. Rather, people living on the Malthusian margin, especially the sort of late Neolithic farming that was likely marginal in Northern Europe, were likely subject to the same famine dynamics as occurred in the New World. The IVC zone in South Asia was clearly more advanced, but it too many have been relatively fragile in comparison to the agricultural regimes of later South Asian societies.

The final issue is looping back to Muslims. Did they commit genocide? Did they exterminate the local populations? Probably. But, 95-99% of the ancestry of South Asian Muslims is the same as that of South Asian Hindus of the same region. Unlike the incursion of Indo-Aryans, the arrival of Muslims, mostly Turks, Afghans, and Persians did not have a major demographic perturbation in a direct sense (indirectly, technology and organizational skills introduced by Muslim elites may have resulted in disparate demographic growth of different regions in South Asia; e.g., Eaton’s argument for the expansion into eastern Bengal).

Additionally, Islam as a dominant ideology developed during the high-tide of rent-seeking elites. Though Muhammad’s status as a merchant meant that the religion was never constitutively anti-mercantile, conquest elites invariably aimed to extract wealth out of conquered populations. Arguably, the development of Islam is a direct consequence of how lightly Christianized Arab conquest elites developing an ideology which justified their extraction of rents (“protection taxes”) from conquered populations,  as well as maintaining their separateness and distinctness.

In the Indian context, many will point out that Islamic chroniclers note the despoilation and slaughter upon the local population. I would suggest that one be cautious about the propagandistic nature of ancient conflict and war (this begins with the Battle of Kadesh). Ancient chroniclers seem to have exaggerated numbers and effectiveness routinely. At least in the early modern period, most casualties due to battlefield injuries were the consequence of infection, not immediate trauma. Similarly, I suspect that the depopulation of an invaded region was more likely a consequence of the disruption of local social fabrics more than direct killing with arrows, swords, and spears (killing people expends a lot of energy and is risky).

Because of the nature of this blog, of course, this post ends with the arrival of Muslims to India. The stupid and the disingenuous (or a mix of both) seem to fix on two extreme positions:

  1. Muslims arrived and ushered in an orgy of slaughter driven primarily by the motive of oppressing the kuffar
  2.  Turks arrived in India, and like earlier invaders aimed to extract resources and dominate the location population

These caricatures serve ideologies but don’t describe reality. Both materialist and non-materialist motives need to be considered. The chroniclers of the arrival of self-conscious Muslim military forces to South Asia clearly wished to present it as an ideological and religious act. These were ghazis, just as far to the west, the Ottomans began as ghazis. But it is also impossible not to notice the family resemblance of Muslim Turks moving into South Asia in the centuries after 1000 A.D. with the invasions and conquest of China by Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic peoples in the centuries after 1000 A.D.

Not surprisingly, the Khitai, Jurchen, and Mongols, all made some ideological claims for their acts of aggression of conquest, often post facto and tenuously. The Khitai and Jurchen integrated themselves into the Han Chinese worldview and presented themselves more worthy stewards of the Mandate of Heaven than the Song rulers of China. The Mongols also did this, though perhaps even more foregrounded was their own peculiar ideology than their sky god had given the whole world to them to subjugate (the Mongol Yuan dynasty also gave special consideration to Tibetan Buddhism, which alienated their Han subjects).

But of course, we would notice that the major consequence of the Mongol Yuan dynasty was the transfer of resources from Han Chinese elites to arriviste Mongol elites. The overthrow of the Yuan resulted in the expulsion of the killing of many of these hated Mongol landlords. Ideological rationales were given, but the memories of Han elite dispossession were fresh.

And yet despite the fig-leaf that ideology provides, differences may result from such distinctions. The Khitai and the Mongols were more punctilious is differentiating themselves from their Han subjects than the Jurchen. They maintained their separateness due to their reduced respect and veneration of Confucian norms. And, notably, the philo-Sinic Jurchen were assimilated into the Han to a far greater extent than the Khitai and the Mongols.

Similarly, in South Asia, the ideological distinctions between the rentier class of Turks and West Asian Muslims, and native Indians was sufficient for the absorptive process to halt. Synthesis occurred. But amalgamation did not proceed to completion. In David Cannadine’s Ornamentalism the author argues that the religious difference was also the key reason that the Indian elite, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu, did not intermarry with the British gentry.

The various arcs of history cannot be easily defined by grade-school level Marxism, or internet Hindu level psychoanalysis. In all regions that self-conscious Muslim conquest elites established themselves, their sense of distinctness, superiority, and God-given right to rule are clear. But, all these groups, whether it be the slaving regimes of Arabs in East Africa, the Ottomans in the Balkans, and yes, Muslims in South Asia, exhibited a strong orientation toward pragmatic exploitation of the riches of the regions which they conquered.

Addendum: I’m going to delete stupid comments. This means if you leave a 2,000-word comment that’s stupid, it will be for naught.

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I’m fond of saying “two is the first number”

I was senior analyst in a small and wonderfully eccentric DC Beltway think tank a while back, and my boss kept asking me for what he called “early indicators” of upcoming troubles. The trouble was, I never saw an “indicator” as such — I only ever saw “indicators” plural. It takes two to tango, they say, and from my POV it takes two to make a pattern.

My HipBone Games began as an attempt to make Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game playable, preferably on a paper napkin in a sidewalk cafe, so I began with boards like my WaterBird —

— with ten moves, ten concepts arrayed in such a way that players or later readers could see ten richly interconnected concepts in one place — concepts that might be textual, musical, mathematical, visual, filmic — if we’d known how to convey smells via the internet, I’d have included those, too..

And over time, I discovered the obvious — that the fundamental game move involved two concepts, with one bridging link between them. So that’s the fundamental way to learn to play the HipBone Games. Over time, I’ve come to rely more and more on this simplest of HipBone Games, the DoubleQuote:

— leaving the larger HipBone Gameboards — the 8-move Dart board on up to the 120-odd Said Symphony board, dedicated to, you may have guessed it, Edward Said, and available for possible competition games and solo symphonies.

**

What’s a concept, you might ask — what constitutes a move?

I might use a different definition if I were taking about anything other than the Bead Game, but in this context, a concept is a rich idea — an idea with rich possibilities for association. Let me take a paragraph from a New Yorker piece as an example:

Melissa and Ashley, identical twins from Georgia, shared a bedroom while growing up. They had the same best friend, took classes together in high school, and dreamed of becoming artists in their own collective. “We’re like two different people with one brain,” Melissa liked to say.

The article in question is titled An Underground College for Undocumented Immigrants — so there’s room associations with the underground railroad perhaps, another situation where the official system repressed a minority, and that minority found ways to circumvent the system.

I’ve chosen this example, in fact, because it offers numerous associative possibilities — to other ideas, narratives, or statistical finds about twins, to other New Yorker articles, to underground movie theaters or catacombs, to those who dream of becoming artists — and in particular for my purposes here, because it’s about two people who think, almost as if they are one.

In fact, to emphasis this notion of unity and harmony, I might simply chose this statement for the first position in my DoubleQuote::

We’re like two different people with one brain

**

Let’s use a musical analogy, and say the two of them think in close harmony, or, since there are two of them, that thinking together, they constitute a duet..

The opposite of harmony,in which many notes played simultaneously form a chord, is counterpoint, in which differing melodic lines move between discord and resolution — harmony a “vertical” matter, synchronic, while counterpoint is “horizontal” and diachronic —

— and the opposite of a duet is a duel.

**

The two friends in Don DeLillo’s New Yorker piece, Midnight in Dostoevsky like to keep their minds at opposite poles from each other. As one of the two reports:

He liked to test himself on what he knew. He liked to stop walking to emphasize a point as I walked on. This was my counterpoint, to let him stand there talking to a tree. The shallower our arguments, the more intense we became.

I wanted to keep this one going, to stay in control, to press him hard. Did it matter what I said?

The actual phrase I’d place in juxtaposition to the first paragraph above might come from a discussion of whether the old man walking in front of them that day was wearing an anorak or a parka —

It was our routine; we were ever ready to find a matter to contest.

Again, the context — the article itself — is rich in associative potentials, with parkas, anoraks, Inuits, linguistics, life in the arctic circle, the whole idea of North — on which the pianist Glenn Gould wrote an entire radio opera

— and note that Gould is himself a master of counterpoint, specializing in the work of JS Bach, and called his radio opera technique “contrapuntal radio” —

So:

“This was counterpoint” — the opposite of harmony, and full of both conflict and resolution, with phrases isolated and overlapping, paused and repeated, denial and occasional agreement and renewed denial — a duel, not by any means a duet.

And yet each of our two excerpts describes the conversations of two close friends, the one emphasizing unity, the other diversity. And it is in the similarities and differences between the two conversation — between duel and duet — that the two concepts link to become a single move.

**

Having given that extended example, let me present a few more DoubleQuotes, in their positions on the board — with minimal explanations:

Some of them are made of names or phrases so simple, they fit on a mini-version of the board:

Some bring Shakespeare to bear on current events — in this case, Saudi Crown Prince MBS and the Khashoggi murder:

Some showing similarities in different materials:

Some making historical comparisons — this one’s in an earlier version of the same board —

or opposite opinions and creative practices of two of the world’s most distinguished physicists:

or — and this is my personal favorite, crossing as it does the great disciplinary boundary — between CP Snow’s Two Cultures — between art and science:

**

But either I’ve been very unclear, or you get the idea.

Here’s the blank DoubleQuotes board again, for you to download and drop your own examples into.

At gmail I’m hipbonegamer — feel free to send me your own, with any explanation you feel like making, and in a later post I’ll put them up here.

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Religious change, genocide, and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia

Since many readers of this website refer to “genocides,” and all of them were born in the 20th or 21st centuries, I want to put a note here which I think will illustrate why it is important to be careful of the use of particular words and what their connotations are as a function of time. In the modern period, the term “genocide” has a particular valence. The Nazi killing of Jews, the Ottoman genocides of the early 20th century, and the killing of Tutsis in Rwanda. These were, I believe, expressions of the mass politics and mobilization. As such, they are not entirely analogous to ethnic and religious turnover in the premodern era, where death was often secondary or a side-effect.

Continue reading “Religious change, genocide, and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia”

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Against being an intellectual subaltern

Over at my other weblog, The blood on brown hands is a legacy of all of history. Basically, a long essay where I fire broadsides at reductive postcolonialism in the context of Indian history and communal divisions. The motivation was straightforward: twitter is not really good to outline more subtle or detailed perspectives. But, it is a good platform for people to pepper you with many, many, questions.

Below is the first paragraph of the post:

Yesterday I put up a tweet which went a bit viral (I won’t embed since it has a vulgarity). It was the result of my frustration with a very liberal Indian American who was using unfortunate tensions in the Indian subcontinent to attack “white supremacy.” My frustration was due to the reality that a major conflict between India and Pakistan would not just impact India and Pakistan, though that is dire enough. In a globalized world, a war involving the world’s fifth largest economy, situated athwart the southern flank of Asia, would impact many people outside of the subcontinent. In the midst of this, the fact that someone was using this to promote their own ideological hobbyhorse was offensive to me.

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