We are the World, We are South Asian

Dear () :

First, allow me to congratulate you on your excessively clever handle. Normally, I’d be jumping out of my chair like the little cartoon man who signifies “stellar!” for the San Francisco Chronicle’s arts reviews, out of appreciation of your FANTASTIC taste in music, but I am almost 99.9% certain that you weren’t paying tribute to a three-year old release from Sigur Ros with the whole empty parentheses schtick.

Second, allow me to even more sarcastically congratulate you on your attempt at incisive commentary, issued in support of the link you wanted to tip us to…ouch, I think it gave me an owie:

Islamic terrorists attack IISc in Bangalore and shoot a professor dead. Such beautiful gift from our loving South Asian brothers deserve a mention on this blog….or perhaps you’d choose to bury your head in the sand and pretend that this doesn’t/didn’t/won’t happen.

Not.

This trifling game is getting so old, I can pay a premium for it (still in the original box! mint!) on eBay. This Mutiny is brown. We like the term “South Asian“. We write about stuff that happens in the countries that surround India. We care. If you don’t, then that’s unfortunate. Getting snide in an ANONYMOUS tip isn’t going to change our minds, surely you had to be aware of that. If not, let this “musing” of mine clue you in: inclusiveness is how we roll, even though every one of our parents once had an Indian passport and exactly eight dollars in their pocket, upon landing at JFK. Speaking of that now legendary phrase–”eight dollars (in my hand)”– which my much-loved Father shouted on an every-other-day basis as a counterpoint to my spendthrift proclivities, my Daddy is the reason why I am a hard-core South Asian. Oh, and if you’re not sure what I’m referring to with my magic eight bawl, apparently my father (and several other Uncles etc) weren’t allowed to just stroll in the country with benjamins in their money clips. For whatever reason, my exhausted, anxious father had just that odd and small sum on him when he landed in New York, walked to a coffee shop in the airport, paid $0.50 for a single cup of kappi and then nearly fainted as one-sixteenth of his net worth left his hands in exchange for a tiny caffeine rush.

Two-and-a-half decades later, when he heard that I spent $2.50 on a cappuccino at Stanford, during a JSA one-day conference where I debated something foreign policy-y, he yelled at me for close to an hour about my extravagance, converting the sum to rupees and that most hallowed currency of all, the original eight dollars which created my family on American soil. “$2.50? $2.50! When I came to this country, I paid a fifth of that princely sum for a cup of coffee and my hands shook! Brazen girl! Are you the Maharani of Travancore? Have you no shame? Almost three dollars– for COFFEE! ende devam-ay, this one and money, it just falls through her hands…” ;) I got a phenomenal Braun espresso machine for Christmas that year (1990), as my father grumbled that I would never get robbed for caffeine again.

Where were we? Ah yes, why my father made me a South Asian. When I was a wee thing, I got a globe for my sixth birthday from a very close Uncle. Fascinated, I noticed that there were “tropics” for both my and my father’s astrological signs, but not my mother or sister’s. I realised, for the first time, that America was a very big place. And I saw that India was very far away from San Francisco. My father found me peering at the “kite” and smiled with amusement. “What are you looking for?”, he asked. “Thiruvilla!” I exclaimed. Carefully, Daddy drew a tiny dot with a permanent marker, near the south-western coast of the kite. “There.” I kept studying, until I finally decided that India was a very big place, too. Daddy got a hazy look on his face and sighed. “It used to be even bigger.” Then he pulled me on his lap and told me about how maps were arbitrary and the lines which defined them weren’t drawn with the sort of marker he still held in his hand.

I asked him about my Montessori preschool teacher, who looked just like one of my Aunts. “She’s from Ceylon. She’s just like us. Remember when she came for tea? How it sounded like she was speaking Malayalam? She was speaking Tamil, which is one of the languages Malayalam is based on…Tamil is what your cousins in Madras speak, remember?” I wasn’t following. “So she’s Indian like us?” He replied negatively, but hesitated. “Not really. Not officially. Ceylon is a different country. But that doesn’t matter. She taught you the same way I was taught at Syrian Christian Seminary. She was tough and she understood that we appreciated that.” I glowered at him. When people at Montessori weren’t looking, she had pinched my ear once or twice, with my parents’ adoring blessing. “The thing is, edi…we are more similar than different. In this country, no one cares if you were rich back home, or if you were a Brahmin, or if you came from one side or the other of Punjab, because part is here in India and the other is there in Pakistan…you’re just a foreigner. Maybe your children won’t be considered such, but by then, who knows how many countries this will be,” he concluded, fingers lightly tracing the subcontinent. “Be proud to be Indian, but don’t think that makes you better or different from your teacher or your Uncle Nasir. They aren’t Indian exactly, but in this country, that doesn’t matter and it never will.”

:+:

Dear Santa, Gosh it’s good to be Orthodox. I get your full attention now that you’re done with that OTHER Christmas. :)

I haven’t published a “list” this year, but I think I know what I want: I want tolerance, respect and compassion. Musing all this blogginess has convinced me that THOSE are things I really could use. Sometimes, I feel like the random, mildly offensive Amreekans who compliment me on my flawless English are kinder than other brown people are, as evidenced by the SM tip above. I know it’s not kosher to assume things, because when you do, it makes a kundi out of you and me, but I have this suspicion that the person in the parentheses didn’t grow up here.

They didn’t know what it was like to be the only Indian, hell, the only Asian, fcuk it, the only non-white kid in school. They didn’t have classmates circle them and make “oooh-wah-wah-wah” noises by quickly touching their lips with their fingers, over and over again, in some horribly insulting mimicry of a misnamed kind of Indian. They didn’t walk a mile in my moccasins. So they don’t know where I’m coming from, just like I can’t even commence imagining what it’s like to walk a few kilometers in their chappals. I just think if you give me what’s on my Christmas list, this blog (ahem, and this world) would be an even awesomer place.

Also, if you could reclassify “sarcasm” so that it’s no longer naughty? That would be soooooo helpful, for both of us (less making a list for you, less items on it from me).

Oatmeal raisin and one-percent okay this year? I’m no Brimful, but I’ll bake them vs buy them, promise. Also? The fireplace isn’t real (there’s no chimney!) so just use the front door, yo.

Lowe,

A N N A

226 thoughts on “We are the World, We are South Asian

  1. Just don’t make India subservient to your flights of fancy.

    Abhinava, I think you hit the nail right on the head. One of the main reasons why I passionately despise the SA-label is because of the overt campaign by Indian lefties, particularly academics, to use “South Asian” identity as opposed to an Indian one, as an explicit instrument of promoting their anti-India agenda in all fields of social sciences and the media. It is their explicit and consciuos attempt to conflate Hindu fundamentalism with Indian-ness and attribution of “progressive” ideas with South Asian-ness that is the root cause of this identity war. In academia, being a “South Asian” is almost a codeword for all sorts of anti-India crap such as promoting the AIT, identifying India and Indianness with the Caste-Curry-Cow-Dowry stereotypes, denigrating Hinduism and going as far as to ascribe the very idea of India as a colonial construct. I understand that this is not the South Asian-ness as explained by the writers of this blog, but a result of the aggressive campaign by leftist morons is that the artifical South Asian identity they have created has come to mean identification with “progressive” (i.e., retrogressive Marxist crap) agenda while an assertion of Indian identity is considered synonymous with a Hindu fundie agenda. Obviously, this is bound to make any nationalust Indian very angry.

    All of us, including the writers of this blog, are part of creating the Indian identity in the US. They unfortunately happen to be on the side of the South Asia-wallahs, but the reasons for their choosing the SA identity for themselves are different. However, I suspect that if an SA-identoty meme is created, it will be based upon the constructs of the academic SA-wallahs and not the superficial food-dance-bollywood-brown skin commonalities that the writers of this blog ascribe their SA-ness to.

    Anna, your childhood story was quite fascinating. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Its without question that dissent in any form needs to be respectful and restrained……uncalled for personal and semi-vitriolic comments have been aplenty from both the sides.

    thanks Anna for a remarkable thread and am sorry the constructive critcism got lost somewhere……just a clarification though……regarding your point about why come to a party you hate……its kinda important as to what exactly u mean by hate.if someone was to believe strongly that ‘south asia’ is detrimental to ‘india’(i am not saying that I think it is),its natural that he/she would come to a ‘south asian’ party to try and convert….as long as the discussion is civil and the bullets intellectual,it should still be welcome.

    goes without saying that you guys got a good thing going with this blog…..i find most of your posts interesting and better still,relevant to even a first generation like me.every now and then however, someone amongst the fab8 does post/say something i dont agree with….or,i strongly disagree with…..thats not ‘hate’.

    and if by “hate” u mean rabid rantings permeated with the air of moral-superiority, a) there have been plenty from both the sides b)I remember some posts in the past which invited typically bigoted and xenophobic comments from some kkklan-ish types and i remember u taking the battle to them….but u never asked them to ‘leave the party’…..if the doors to the party were not closed for those people,then why should they be………”

    I dunno…..maybe I am being hypersensitive about the whole thing.

    On a different note,can someone guide me to a blog where people; 1.discuss cricket 2.make fun of Bollywood but still watch the movies out of ‘aadat’ 3.make fun of ToI but still read it,again out of ‘aadat’ 4.discuss Chetan Bhagat 5.give two hoots about whatever happens to Bobby Jindal 6.can relate to the bliss that the ‘paranthas’ at the hostel cafetaria were.

    me out now…..take care and have a safe and happy new year……

  3. regarding your point about why come to a party you hate……its kinda important as to what exactly u mean by hate.if someone was to believe strongly that ‘south asia’ is detrimental to ‘india’(i am not saying that I think it is),its natural that he/she would come to a ‘south asian’ party to try and convert….as long as the discussion is civil and the bullets intellectual,it should still be welcome.

    discussion and debate (when civil) are more than welcome :) but since i am someone who shudders at aggressive “conversions” of a religious variety, surely you’re not surprised that i’m consistent and thus slightly aghast when people at our neverending cocktail party here try to convert others. i would never go to their “house” and insult their choice of self-definitions or try and convince them that they are wrong and should embrace MY line of thinking.

    goes without saying that you guys got a good thing going with this blog…

    thank you. :)

    i find most of your posts interesting and better still,relevant to even a first generation like me.every now and then however, someone amongst the fab8 does post/say something i dont agree with….or,i strongly disagree with…..thats not ‘hate’.

    no, it’s not hate at all and i’m sorry if i made it sound like it was. nofixed, i’ve never felt like you were unpleasant or disrespectful. i’m glad you’re here, in fact, i love when ALL 1Gs read us. not surprising, considering how i was crowned “Queen of the FOBs” in grad school. ;)

    and if by “hate” u mean rabid rantings permeated with the air of moral-superiority,
    a) there have been plenty from both the sides
    b)I remember some posts in the past which invited typically bigoted and xenophobic comments from some kkklan-ish types and i remember u taking the battle to them….but u never asked them to ‘leave the party’…..if the doors to the party were not closed for those people,then why should they be………”

    no, because we just delete and ban those people.

    i’m not asking anyone here to leave. no one has been THAT much of a jackass. it’s more like…i’m curious as to why they would continue to stick around a place which they find so stupid and infuriating. it was me being perplexed vs defiant.

    please understand what it’s like on “our” end: our parents chose to come here and worked tirelessly to give us a beautiful life…and we have that academically or financially, but not necessarily in other ways, especially when looking back at our younger years. for those of us who, like me, grew up as the ONLY brown kid at school, integrating and enlightening as we went about life while wishing we could just be normal kids without the baggage of “difference”, the process of self-definition may inspire eye-rolling dismissiveness but that’s not kind. “Indian” in this country means feather, not us. i didn’t know the word “desi” until college and that’s fine for within our circles, but it means nothing to someone who ain’t brown.

    my father instilled an all-consuming passion for India’s history, art and languages within me, and when i was younger, i begged him to let me go to berkeley to study it. what would’ve been on my degree? “south asian studies”. which made perfect sense to me, since my father was born in a place which didn’t include a “pakistan” or a “bangladesh”. the ancient archaeological sites i am most fascinated with are now in pakistan. the bengali ex-bf i almost married came from a family which left bangladesh for kolkata. choosing “Indian” always made me feel like i was behind a barrier, kept away from those spaces. and yes, in this country, where we are defined by the majority, i do feel a sense of familiarity among other brown, no matter where they are from. when davis FINALLY got a south asian restaurant, i didn’t care that it was actually nepali, nor did i adore the people who worked there any less effusively. when you’ve spent your whole life apart, you’re a lot less sanctimonious about whom you identify or create bonds with.

    :+:

    incidentally, i have no problems with TOI. :) i always thought that was a first gen thing, to hate on them. “slimes of india” etc. ;)

  4. wow. this is a hall-of-fame quality thread. the kind that academics, pollsters and marketers will use as evidence. (and argue about what it means.)

    all i can say is the more i read some of these comments, the prouder a south asian i become.

    it’s amazing how much overt contempt some of the commenters have for the authors of this blog. and the need they have to voice it in disrespectful terms.

    you guys are providers of bad energy.

    but hey, go on with your bad selves.

    anna, keep on keeping on, girl.

    peace and a happy new year to all lovers and haters alike.

  5. TOI is not very good, but i read it occasionally in web form. It takes a long time to download. My favorite paper in India is the Tribune of Chandigarh,{ which has an excellent web edition. I usually make sure to check out what is happening in Ludhiana district. I like cricket, and have watched India-Pak games late into the night. I usually know when to say, “that was a cracking shot”. I am not up on the latest lingo, but I know the order is Aus-then everybody else. “We” are better than the Brits, which is always nice. “We” are usually better than SL, The Windies, and (um) I won’t touch how “we” compare with Pak, too contentious to take on just right now. I would like to see an IIT north of Dehli. I know the three regions of Indian Punjab, Majha, Malwa, and Doaba, and I know which region has the most emiigrants (Doaba). Ludhiana district is in Malwa. I know Gurgoan (sp) is the tech capital in North India, and “our” answer to the hubs more south. “We” need more IT education in “apna” Punjab.

    And yet, as a Pardesi, I am proud to be carrying on a legacy of “ours” which is to be, a Pardesi. I am also happy to be in Amrica. Can’ada has the same proporation of Sikhs in it as India, and maybe as many MPs proportionally (although thats just a guess). When I say I am South Asian, I not only speak to one of my realties, I speak to the history of saada Punjab.

    Hoon pher, jai kisnay as web site tha koi polaka hai vew mai Indian hai kei nai? answer hai, zaroo

  6. Anna writes:

    my father made me a South Asian….They arenÂ’t Indian exactly, but in this country, that doesnÂ’t matter and it never will

    With all respect to your dear departed father, I think this idea is outdated. I don’t know when he instilled these ideas into you, but most likely it was before Pakistan started sponsoring terrorism in India(Punjab/Kashmir) and before Bangladeshis started flooding India and changing demographics of border areas(Assam/Tripura), thus fostering terrorism.

    Personally, I don’t mind at all if you or other SM’ers, Indians etc call yourself South-Asians. To each his/her own. However, what we object to is an attempt by many South-Asians to characterise all Indians as South-Asians, whether they want it or not. (This is akin to many Hindus calling other Sikhs as Hindus, whether they identify themselves as such or not.) In many a speech in such south-asian gatherings, I’ve heard statements like “There are 2.1 million South-Asians in America” or “Software industry is dominated by South-Asians” etc. They automatically include me in their statistical analysis, without ever bothering to consider whether I want to be called south-asian or not. That’s my beef.

    I (and many on this board) would not have had a problem with the south-asian label if it excluded Pak/Bangladesh, but included SriLanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives. Too many of us have grown up in our formative years opening the newspapers and day in and day out reading items like “18 Hindus killed in Punjab”… “23 Hindus killed in Kashmir”…”17 killed in DurgaPuja blast in Tripura“. Day in and day out. Without respite. For more than a decade. What we really feel for Pak/Bangla is mind-numbing hatred. Similiar to what Jews even today feel about Nazis.

    But what about decent, tolerant Pakistani-Americans and Bangladeshi-Americans (and there are many of those)? Well, I wish them luck. But, to me they are no different or similiar than a decent Irish-American or a Texas cowboy or a Rabbi from Brooklyn. Let’s transact business, but let’s not pretend that there is a common bond between us beyond that.

    Moreover, things have changed rapidly in the last decade or so. I am sorry that you suffered in your school years, but nowadays Indian kids are looked up to by many. Teachers/Principals clearly distinguish that Indian kids are better than Pakistani kids. Anybody who’s worked in the software, medicine or finance industry (and nowadays in real-estate) knows that Whites know the stark difference between Indians and Pakistanis. The term Pakistan (and nowadays even Bangla) conjures up words like “Terrorism”, “Bin laden hideout”, “Honor killings” etc etc. The term India brings up words like “Software”, “Outsourcing”, “BPO”, “Bollywood”, “Stealing American jobs” etc etc. In the American mindset, Pakistan is out – India is in.

    So – many of us really don’t want to drag ourselves down into the gutter to feign a kinship that exists only in CIA archives from the 70′s and 80′s. Now, if Pakistan and Bangla fix themselves, stop sponsoring terrorism, when Pak-Americans stop campaiging against Indian-American candidates, then yes – I will reconsider my stand gladly.

    However, I too am puzzled by folks here who get angry when SM’ers call this a South-Asian blog. Hey – if you don’t like it, start one of your own!

    M. Nam

  7. When I read the email I would have thought that the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis would by offended by a blog run by Indian-Americans with a clear upwardly mobile, 2nd gen bias that claims to represent the interests of all South Asians in America. I which case I would support their attempt at trying to avoid Indian cultural hegemony

    But as it turns out Indians are pissed off because of their own unfounded, intolerant, nationlistic elitism. In this case I do support Sepia Mutiny’s South Asian Identity.

  8. That Indians and South Asians have something in common is a big lie that needs to be nailed. “South Asian” is suicide for India and Indian Americans.

    This is the heart of the matter. As an, ahem, Indian-American, I want nothing whatsoever to do with a Cold-War category that is oblivious to the ground realities in India and the region. When OCI becomes available shortly, I will surely opt for it, will continue to maintain my relationship with India, visit and spend money, donate to charities, and, if the opportunity is right, even invest. Heres an idea: since all South Asians were once part of India, how bout labelling all of us Greater Indians? :) Any takers?

    South Asianism will destroy that primordial link the second generation should have with India, and will stifle the voice of India abroad that we should strive to represent. Greek-Americans, Polish-Americans, Israeli-Americans…those are the models we should be emulating, they don’t allow themselves to be co-opted as Euro-Americans or Meditteranean-Americans.

    The situational-postmodern-hybrid-addle brained-neo-colonized-desi–bhangra dancing-blokes can be South Asian all they want.

    Please check out the wikipedia article entitled Indian-American. At the bottom of the page a certain South Asian blog has been misrepresented as Indian-American. I wonder if the owners of the blog would be so kind to inform the authors of this, as wikipedia is an important source of information and can impact the perception of brand Indian-American :-)

    The best of the bloggists here is Manish. He looks out for grossly manipulative anti-Indian and anti-Hindu representations, and is not afraid to slap even the Catholic Church silly when they deserve it. He is also sees the destructiveness of proselytization. He also calls the bullshit of Indian and Hindu groups when they’ve done something to deserve it. That is the difference between this blog and some of the secularized Anti-Indian South Asian shit on the net. Thats why I bother with this place, which would be nothing without Indian-Americans.

  9. The situational-postmodern-hybrid-addle brained-neo-colonized-desi–bhangra dancing-blokes can be South Asian all they want.

    who you calling colonized, brown man?

  10. This is the heart of the matter. As an, ahem, Indian-American, I want nothing whatsoever to do with a Cold-War category that is oblivious to the ground realities in India and the region. When OCI becomes available shortly, I will surely opt for it, will continue to maintain my relationship with India, visit and spend money, donate to charities, and, if the opportunity is right, even invest. Heres an idea: since all South Asians were once part of India, how bout labelling all of us Greater Indians? :) Any takers?

    South Asianism will destroy that primordial link the second generation should have with India, and will stifle the voice of India abroad that we should strive to represent.

    1) the ‘relationship’ with india is i think a key parameter lurking around here. my impression from anna’s original post is in our day-to-day interactions india, or pakistan or bangladesh or whatever, are not particularly salient, it is our ‘brownness’ that really matters in our interaction with the world around us. i recall a post from abhi awhile ago showed real fissions between a putative ‘india first’ and ‘non-india first’ segment.

    Greek-Americans, Polish-Americans, Israeli-Americans…those are the models we should be emulating, they don’t allow themselves to be co-opted as Euro-Americans or Meditteranean-Americans.

    there is a real category problem in this. greek and polish americans are ethnically equivalent to bengali or punjabi americans, but not nationally. culturally india is analogous to europe. one can make some analogy to china here, though china is more homogenous because of the unified han ethnic identity and written language (though the 1/3 who speak ‘dialects’ are not intelligible with mandarin standard). the ‘israeli’ american category is somewhat like india because it is broken down into ashkenazi and sephardic and other ethnic fissures which exist within israeli society.

  11. re: moornam’s contention that americans know the difference between indians and non-indians of south asian origin, my last name is clearly muslim (think genghis someone :) , but a client i’ve had whose database app i have refactored and redesigned periodically over the past 3 years asked me if i was hindu since he realized i celebrated xmas. some background: he has lived in thailand for the past 10 years, has a master’s degree in mathematics and an MBA, and he visited bangladesh 2 years ago (he knows i’m bangladeshi). so anyway, as someone who has been assumed to be hindu and ‘indian’ my whole life, i’m skeptical that operationally the distinction works with most people. but i’m willing to be convinced, i’m not invested because i have no ‘primordial’ links at jeopardy or in play.

  12. razib,

    exactly, brother.

    brownness is a state of mind.

    those who dig it, have a natural home here. the furniture in the living room is to their taste, they find the snacks tasty and the beverages quench their thirst.

    those who don’t, aren’t comfortable. the door is open to them, which is wonderful. but they look around nervously. some are wallflowers, some are boors, and some just join the party.

    and on that note, enough from me on this new year’s eve. time to do some cooking. once again, happy new year to all.

    peace

  13. What we really feel for Pak/Bangla is mind-numbing hatred. Similiar to what Jews even today feel about Nazis.

    So you feel about Bangladeshis what the Jews felt about the Nazis. Reality check my brotha.

  14. just another thought which cross my mind re: ‘primordial’ links. the greek, polish and israeli example(s) do share something in common: small nations with tightly focused geopolitical needs/considerations. have you ever wondered to think about the relationship between the japanese americans japan, or german americans and germans, or french americans and the french, or italian americans and italians? i think one difference, especially in the case of france or germany, as that these are large nations which diverse interests who at various points were at cross-purposes with the interests of the united states. note that the USA manages to be friendly with both israel and saudi arabia, and gives a lot of aid to egypt. my point is that expecting there be a relationship between india and the USofA that is analogous to the polish or irish model is not going to work because india is a nation with diverse interests and on its way to being a ‘great power.’ not only is the analogy between greeks:indians weak (10 million people in a nation the size of a medium sized american state vs. 1 billion people in a nation the size of western & central europe), i think in the long term that sort of ethnic model will not be particularly viable.

    this isn’t a comment on what should be, rather, an analysis of the plausibilities in the future (by this model, a pakistani american lobby can be more successful because its interests revolve around india, it is a regional power-though this is confounded by the reality that pakistan is a seedbed for transnational terrorists).

  15. I agree with moornam here that there is a segment of americans who can identify muslims and hindu separately now. Mostly its from names. Its a recent phenomina i think its post 9-11. And its only a certain segment of population.

  16. attacking South Asian identity as “addled-brained” and the product of people being duped; you’re wrong. the phrase fits in our context. Many of us are aware that “South Asian” started as a diplomatic and academic phrase. Maybe there is room for those of us who are indeed hybrids, and enjoy that life. As there is room for those who identify with a distinct national identity. Personally I think those of us who are hybrid have a signficant part to play in generating harmonious relationships globally, economically, socially, artistically. At the same time, there is a value in being “placed”. There seems to be a basic desire for belonging. That is why actually I think ethnic Americans have it good; we live in one of the more pluralistic cultures, a culture that by-and-large holds pluralism as a good (particularly in urban “blue areas” but also in “red areas”. You will find open exchanges based on pluralistic values in Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, as well as in NYC. Of course, pluralism is not held as a good by all at all times.

    In addition to this, we as desis can “place” ourselves in old cultures. And since we are at times marginalized by name, color, religion, we can find comfort in participating in a culture that validates that which would otherwise marginalize us.

    At the same time, many of us revel in hydridity. Be this in food, music, culture, ect. There is much to learn from and in hydridity.

    A hybrid is not a non-identity, it’s not rootless. A hybrid plant for example, has roots. There is much to be said for hybrid vigor in plant genetics. The interesting thing about hybridity among people is, we can to some degree choose those characteristics we adopt. That is why the increasing pressure to conformity is uncomfortable to hybrids. A person who knows they have the ability to choose from rich cultures would like to preserve the right to take from those cultures what they will, and would not like those choices constrained by outside influences adovacting that they adhere to one or another culture wholesale.

  17. But as it turns out Indians are pissed off because of their own unfounded, intolerant, nationlistic elitism. In this case I do support Sepia Mutiny’s South Asian Identity.

    The only folks pissed are not as one sided as you claim eg ooh please dont take my brownness away or those whose borrowed leftist bias to an extreme and now walk with a limp in their gait.

  18. just another thought which cross my mind re: ‘primordial’ links. the greek, polish and israeli example(s) do share something in common: small nations with tightly focused geopolitical needs/considerations

    I think this is a good point Razib. Also it gets at one of the anti-South Asian planks; that by not acting as solely “Indian-American” we doom the hurt the interests of India. I think many “South Asians” understand this objection to themselves acting as South Asian. However, understanding does not mean agreeing. They do not agree that they are hurting India by being South Asia. In fact, many think they are helping. And I think this has merit. Actually, I wonder if a “South Asian” is not, tangetially helping a “Brand India” type of project — even though the “Brand India” idea seems in ways problematic. A South Asian uphold some values that “Brand India” people might like to associate with India. However, a South Asian does not forfeit the ability to call himself or herself both South Asian and Indian. Nor does the term South Asian negate the ability to someone to identify themselves as both South Asian and Indian. However, what is being asked here seems to be that South Asians either forfeit the ability to call themselves at times South Asian and at other times Indian.

    In practice many South Asians are likely to often refer to themselves as Indian

  19. Regarding hybrids are we discussing mules here. :-) Cultures as well as individulas adopt and assimilate ideas from another culture/individuals all the time. What makes you think that those who chose to identify themselves as Indian Americans have not adopted/adopt food,culture,music,literature,lifestyle,etc from other sources and dont enjoy doing so.

  20. In practice many South Asians are likely to often refer to themselves as Indian

    contra some commenters here i have little personal experience here in the pacific northwest of the term ‘bangladeshi’ being relevant or intelligible in any way distinct from ‘indian’ with non-browns. things might be very different in NYC since there are many bangladeshis there, but in most of the country i accept that people simply consider me ‘indian’ and don’t get into arguments with them about it because a) i don’t care that much b) they are telling me about their trips to the madurai temple complex and seem excited to be able to talk to someone who can ‘relate’ c) it is a first approximation that works for them, i don’t want to detail for them how western and chinese cultural traditions are much more personally appealing to me than hindu or muslim ones since that would REALLY disorient them.

  21. my point is that expecting there be a relationship between india and the USofA that is analogous to the polish or irish model is not going to work because india is a nation with diverse interests and on its way to being a ‘great power.’ not only is the analogy between greeks:indians weak (10 million people in a nation the size of a medium sized american state vs. 1 billion people in a nation the size of western & central europe)

    I dont like to predict too far into the future. The point to look at on a historical context is that there has been a US relationship with pakistan which pakistan has used to create problems for india. They have had a strong lobby untill mid 90′s and right around then the Indian Americans got their act together. Organizations like association of indian physcians(that org has several mallu christians) teamed up with bjp and congress related organization to come together to counter pakistanis organization on issue and then disband. The indian americans can use leverage on that issue now, which they could not use before. That is the benifit for india that i can see due to indian americans. Look at Danny boy. The pakistani and khalistani money that goes to him is essentialy drying up and he has given up that game and is looking for something new.

  22. good point guru. the analogy does work in regards to pakistan-indian tensions, as that is a simple geopolitical issue (so to speak). my overall point though is that greek, jewish, polish, armenian, irish, etc. political activism in relation to the “homeland” is relatively easy because the nations in question are marginal players in the grand geopolitical scale (israel can be thought of as an exception, but in practice i don’t think so, the arab elites like israel as a whipping boy, and they would never invade it now that it has nuclear weapons, etc.). japan or china really aren’t/weren’t, and so we don’t think of a chinese american or japanese american political lobby/interest group because the emergence of such groups is much more problematic in the context of patriotism because these starts have many relationships, positive & negative, with the united states. if india does develop economically i suspect that the american-india relationship will bear much more relationship to american-japan or america-china, than america-armenia or america-greece.

  23. re: “south asian” leftist-activists. how prominent are these individuals and their movement? i don’t know much about ‘brown america’ besides what i glean from this weblog and see in demographic monographics or census data releases?

  24. they are telling me about their trips to the madurai temple complex and seem excited to be able to talk to someone who can ‘relate’ c) it is a first approximation that works for them, i don’t want to detail for them how western and chinese cultural traditions are much more personally appealing to me than hindu or muslim ones since that would REALLY disorient them.

    To prevent disorientation you must gesticulate your head sideways as fast as you can while you thank them for showing interest in India in a ridiculous sounding Indian accent (think Apu) with extreme deference and servility.

    When I first started visiting with my wife’s extended family on holidays etc., I had two reactions from her relatives. The ignorant and kinda hickish ones just saw me as a weird ‘brown’ man and they did not know or cared about nor did they discuss India or anything remotely foreign. The more well-informed (the ones who travel to India-Nepal or plan on travelling and have read Vikram Seth/Rushdie) would engage me about ‘eastern spirituality’ (I have none) and what not. It would upset me to no end as I did not necessarily agree with either their views or their attempts at presumptively appropriating to me an identity which they believed I would/should have without bothering to find out what I really believed in. I would say things which would make their heads spin and wreck havoc on their world views. With time, I have dropped my hostilities and antagonistic stance. I know play along (actually played pretty well this Christmas) and humor them with what they want to hear.

  25. It would upset me

    well, i don’t get upset because life is about probabilities. if people persist after i do inform them of my lack of interest in hinduism or my hostility toward islam, then i get upset! i have had to deal with people who are totally taken aback by my lack of sympathy/empathy with islam and don’t mind engaging them in a hostile manner when they accuse me of ‘selling out’ or ‘betraying’ my culture. but that is not typical, though it happens too often coming from self-styled ‘progressives’ who seem to think that only white people get to reapproriate and recreate their own identity unmoored from considerations of blood & custom. this can of course be flipped around to some people who enter into SM with an attitude that ‘brown’ or ‘indian’ must entail ‘x, y, z, etc.’ there are some here who do agree that there is a debate to be engaged in, and who respectfully disagree, and they are not a real problem. the problem is that some people seem to want to pretend that they get to decide the rules of the game and that those rules have been fixed for eternity as ideal platonic types.

    i don’t personally sympathize too much with pro-multiculturalist lefty types who think that my favorite hijab store is a ‘vibrant’ expression of diversity. if ‘south asian’ is connected to the hip with that sort, well, i can understand more the objections. but i don’t know, it seems these terms are up for grabs, SM is part of the normalization and standardization of the terms. denying that the debate is legitimate or necessary seems to be the stance of some, and that i object to.

  26. Great debate. Here, I often get asked if I’m from Bangladesh. I guess to describe myself I would say “Indian” rather than “South Asian” but I can understand SM going with South Asian.

    ….their attempts at presumptively appropriating to me an identity which they believed I would/should have without bothering to find out what I really believed in.

    This is in a slightly different context, but when I started school here, some students would immediately ask me (when I said I was from India) a) whether I did yoga b) whether I was good at Math. To my eternal chagrin, I did yoga for years and oh God, I have a masters degree in Math…

  27. impossible. the former contains the latter. If you cant do that dont moan when Indians complain about it. If you prefer being controversial and like to have tons of comments on your posts thats fine. And i never said that you claim to be Indian blog. But you very conveniently forget to mention it on SM when posting about news items such as the recent sting operation. You never mentioned THAT THIS WAS A SA blog not an INDIAN one as mentioned in that article. So someone reading that post here on SM will get confused about this blog’s identity. And i come here for the same reason i go to a Pakistani site.

  28. “vick”: i was prepared to respond to your…comment, then i realized that you don’t make any sense, so it’s pointless.

  29. the analogy does work in regards to pakistan-indian tensions, as that is a simple geopolitical issue (so to speak).

    Yep. Those will be part of the shortterm concerns. There are several indian american orgs some simple ones for having funs eg the dosa eating orgs to chang drinking orgs and their a lot more interactions with non indians there. The professional and politicaly concerned orgs will band and disband over a series of ‘simple’ issues(geopolitical or otherwise) in the near future thats for sure.

    my overall point though is that greek, jewish, polish, armenian, irish, etc. political activism in relation to the “homeland” is relatively easy because the nations in question are marginal players in the grand geopolitical scale

    I agree.but would add an extra viewpoint. The few greeks and poles that i know of identify themselves as white americans and dont feel a strong connection to ancestoral land as the indians and jews do with israel(even though for many thats not the ancestoral land…so many of them dont even look semitic any more).
    There has been an ancient greek civilization but that ancient greece culture/religion hasnt survived. Greeks dont feel that they are continuing that lineage but are carrying on the greek orthodox christian tradition.
    However Indians(mostly hindus, but includes jain sikhs,buddhists and small minority of indian muslims) feel a connection to the ancient indian civilization and that they have that lineage and that is a stronger part of their identity.

    …japan or china really aren’t/weren’t, and so we don’t think of a chinese american or japanese american political lobby/interest group because the emergence of such groups is much more problematic in the context of patriotism because these starts have many relationships, positive & negative, with the united states.

    Well the mainland chinese have a lot of cultural professional an religios oriented orgs. I dont know how they interact with others and themselves in US. But their real lobbyist are their influential businessmen. Clinton Administration was a lot more generous to them b/c of their influence. Algore had a political issue on hand over money raised for dems at a chinese buddhist temple in california…But that i think was an exception. The most influential organization for them are their business.

    …if india does develop economically i suspect that the american-india relationship will bear much more relationship to american-japan or america-china, than america-armenia or america-greece.

    In the short run the role most ‘Indian Americans’ want to play is to assist in economical development and help out in lobbying for trade/aid. In the long the indian american influence will be limited b/c India is huge and only indians can help pull themselves up or dig ditches for themselves. and for india i can see that there are many small fires that i see that are burning which one will die on its own, and which would require effort to put out, and which one will burn something down… i dont know. Its immpossible to predict the longterm outcome.

  30. Well written Anna. Although I don’t agree with you entirely on the ‘south asian’ identity issue (…do we now presume that all white people are Europeans?), I do agree that some of us do share a common cultural heritage. Our nationality however is a different matter and not to be confused with or dependened on colour of skin, religion or mother tounge.

  31. The few greeks and poles that i know of identify themselves as white americans and dont feel a strong connection to ancestoral land as the indians and jews do with israel(even though for many thats not the ancestoral land…so many of them dont even look semitic any more). There has been an ancient greek civilization but that ancient greece culture/religion hasnt survived. Greeks dont feel that they are continuing that lineage but are carrying on the greek orthodox christian tradition. However Indians(mostly hindus, but includes jain sikhs,buddhists and small minority of indian muslims) feel a connection to the ancient indian civilization and that they have that lineage and that is a stronger part of their identity.

    the greek & polish american fixation with their motherlands is very narrow and related to existential concerns in regards rivals (turkey, russia, etc.). i don’t see how the fact that ancient greeks were pagan while modern greeks are orthodox vs. hindu continuity is particularly relevant, remember that greeks were orthodoxy in the uniformity by the 7th century, so they have been christian for over 1,000 years. greek nationalism in the 19th century were predicated in part on a synthesis of ancient nationalist affinities stoked by romanticism with greek orthodox rebellion against muslim hegemony.

    Well the mainland chinese have a lot of cultural professional an religios oriented orgs. I dont know how they interact with others and themselves in US. But their real lobbyist are their influential businessmen. Clinton Administration was a lot more generous to them b/c of their influence. Algore had a political issue on hand over money raised for dems at a chinese buddhist temple in california…But that i think was an exception. The most influential organization for them are their business.

    the chinese and japanese have always had many cultural organizations. my point is that they have had fewer political organizations with close ties with their countries of origin. in part this was due to historical circumstances, the american vs. japanese rivalry and wars throughout the 20th century and chinese communism would have made such a relationship unjudicious. but cuban americans have a powerful obby that is against their country of origin (so to speak). i think the key is that cuba is a small player on the world stage. if, for example, chinese americans wanted to push for an economic boycott of china, they would get nowhere, because china is too important to be simply left to a mediating minority. similarly, i am arguing that india is simply too important to be left to a mediating minority. this is not to say that indian americans will not play an important mediating and facilitating role, but i do not feel they will ever play the seminal and central role as is the case in the cuba-america or armena-america or israel-america relationship because those relationships are relatively marginal concerns for a superpower and can be left to motivated groups who wish to devote resources and time to monopolizing them. my comment was in response to comment 158, where he stated, “South Asianism will destroy that primordial link the second generation should have with India, and will stifle the voice of India abroad that we should strive to represent.” those are not statements that seem limited to economic or cultural goodwill and development, they imply that indian americans should be an arm of india abroad. to some extent jewish and armenian americans have become the arm of their nations abroad, but i believe that the american system tolerates this because they are small nations. i do not believe america would ever tolerate chinese, japanese or indian americans being an arm of their nations of origin abroad. america never tolerated the germans being an arm of germany abroad, for example.

  32. oh, and re: poles & greeks vs. indians (americans), most indian americans are 1st gen., most poles and greeks and 2nd & 3rd & 4th. that can also explain the relatively diffuse affinities the former have in comparison to the latter.

  33. greek nationalism in the 19th century were predicated in part on a synthesis of ancient nationalist affinities stoked by romanticism with greek orthodox rebellion against muslim hegemony.

    yes quite right. there’s numerous points of evidence of this but one I thought was interesting that came to mind was in David Sedaris’s ancedotes about his father and his pride in the ancient greek language as a statement of modern greek pride.

    an interesting tangent on that is how Mexican culture celebrates its indegenous history as a means to express nationalism in the more recent Mexican nation

    Also, on the idea of German-Americans as arms of Germany, I seem to remember reading that there are cases pending now of posttumous pardon of german-americans accused of disloyalty in the run-up to WWII in Montana. Another viewpoint on that comes in Philip Roth’s book last year

    I think Razib is right that American generally would not tolerate IA being arms of India, but also, I don’t think many IA’s would prefer to take up that role. Even though they may like or love India and wish it the best, many of them really do like America and feel there are many goods here worth preserving. Particularly now when as Americans we are called upon to uphold the values here that we do indeed cherish. Its not for nothing that American values carried currency. Pluralism, meritocracy, and rule of law among them

  34. the chinese and japanese have always had many cultural organizations. my point is that they have had fewer political organizations with close ties with their countries of origin.

    Iris Chang’s book is relevent here. Although its been awhile since I read it, I think initially the Chinese Aid soceities were connected to Mainland China. I’m not sure how Communism changed that, those details if in Chang’s book I have forgotten.

  35. Iris Chang’s book is relevent here. Although its been awhile since I read it, I think initially the Chinese Aid soceities were connected to Mainland China. I’m not sure how Communism changed that, those details if in Chang’s book I have forgotten.

    my understanding is that the original chinese settlement of the west was closely connected with the proliferation of cantonese organizations, legitimate and illegitimate, in the context of manchu ruled china. chinese history has been in flux over the 20th century, with nationalists vs. communists, etc. and other factors being at play, as well as differences between the older cantonese speaking communities and new mandarin speaking immigrants as well as waves of fujianese. it’s complicated. i had a friend of mine who was from a cantonese speaking family from hong kong. he had a girlfriend who was from a taiwanese family who had recently immigranted who spoke a fujian dialect as well as mandarin. they did not share a spoken chinese language. my friend told me that one reason he became an activist in asian american politics is that he saw that ‘chinese’ was a somewhat simplistic identity for him as an american born person of han ethnicity who could not read or write mandarin & chinese ideographs. of course, a recent immigrant from china might tell him to just be proud to be chinese american, but life is a bit more complicated for him than that, and he doesn’t want to deny that in many ways he has more in common with korean or japanese americans than he might have with someone newly arrived from beijing (cantonese and mandarin are unintelligible, people in north china eat wheat based food stuffs while south chinese tend to be rice eaters, more like japanese, etc. etc.). i think some of this is playing out in some of the comments made here by american born browns, and i think some (not all) non-american born browns are not acknowledging this reality.

  36. and he doesn’t want to deny that in many ways he has more in common with korean or japanese americans than he might have with someone newly arrived from beijing

    Likewise a Bengali Indian American can have more in common with a Bangladeshi American than what he would have in common with a Tamil from India. For American raised desis, growing up in America is an important part of their identity and shared common experience of growing up as Brown Americans will play an important role in shaping their world view.

  37. …and will stifle the voice of India abroad that we should strive to represent.” those are not statements that seem limited to economic or cultural goodwill and development, they imply that indian americans should be an arm of india abroad. to some extent jewish and armenian americans have become the arm of their nations abroad, but i believe that the american system tolerates this because they are small nations. i do not believe america would ever tolerate chinese, japanese or indian americans being an arm of their nations of origin abroad. america never tolerated the germans being an arm of germany abroad, for example

    I dont see the toleration issue arising yet. There are huge economic issues. And the US is enjoying increased sales to india. Boeing being an example. GE is also an example. Its in US’s best interest that they sell their products that they are really good at to a growing market so they will tolerate it in the near long run. In postwar era Japan germany and tiawan have kicked US out of the game in certain fields and they were tolerated b/c damn their products were good. Even though geopolitical considerations were another ball game but neither side had a potential fight with US on the horizon. India does not have any dispute with US which the US would consider strategic any more. so in that sense if indians move up the value chain (a very difficult task) and kick us out of another industry it would be economics that dictate outcome more than geopolics Tiawanese have invested heavily in china. Many tiawanse see china moving in correct direction and for them they know that in the long run they will be part of a unified greater china. Its already true in cultural sense. Many US companies operate in Iran, through their subsdies in the oil and gas related industries. This despite what farters in washington blow hot air about. The fact is that there is going to be increased chinese and indian involvement with iran business over oil and gas(and not so secret american japanese and european involvement). When US cries are dealt with a diplomatic “what ever”. When/If indian business outfits grow big and carry some geopolitical clout, some of the same businessman may use his/her influence like some chinese businessmen pull off. But its not yet known. So many indians went out and created their own mini NGOs. often it employs 1 or 2 fulltime workers working and do go back at least once a year. I helped my maternal uncle pay for the education for his daughter. And this is so common. The family structure I have seen around me dictates that this if some one needs help for education its a must. you may not help a relative for heart surgery and you wouldnt be kicked out the clan, but helping when asked education of an extended family member even if its pali literature its a must. If you refuse you risk being ostracized.
    This has to be coupled with the people who will go back for pure business reasons. I know 5-6 entreprenuers who went back to india to hire employees for a small niche product in india and to selling it in US etc….How much economic development they can pull off is again tied to india more than indian american, but in the near short term they can be a positive development. The singapore chinese are not an arm of the mainland china nor are the tiawanese, but they have be a shot in the arm for mainland china and helped it grow economicaly. So the question is not if indian americans will be the arm of india in american soil. It is will indian americans be the shot in the arm for india? no one knows too early to call.

  38. guru, i don’t think anyone begrudges india its economic success. as a human it is nice to see that 1/5 of humanity which has been predominantly living in abject squalor might see the sight of basic modern affluence within their lifetime. there are many points within the ideological space we are discussing here. if someone is talking about a ‘primordial’ link to mother india it seems to me something deeper and more significant than investment and economic development. the analogy with jews works here, as the american jewry does, by and large, have a ‘primordial’ link with the nation-state of israel as an expression of their national aspirations. to some extent jews have gotten a pass, in part because of their high status and cultural fluency, and in part because israel is a small state which does not seem to require direct military aid against the arabs. i don’t think indian americans would get such a pass. i don’t think that indian american 2nd and 3rd gen have a specific ‘primordial’ link to mother india, because i don’t think an analogy between ‘indians’ and ‘jews’ is appropriate (india is ethnic diverse, and as a nation-state it is new creation, though not as a cultural region).

    in short, going back to anna’s original post, i think the issue can be understand more clearly if we acknowledge its inherent complexity and texture. the problem i have is the attempt to dismiss or delegitimize anna & co’s generation of a particular identity because it does not toe the party line of other groups. this is not a black & white issue, some here clearly disagree with anna’s conception of a pan-south asian identity, but they grant that it is a real possibility that is not negated by the facts on hand.

  39. Likewise a Bengali Indian American can have more in common with a Bangladeshi American than what he would have in common with a Tamil from India. For American raised desis, growing up in America is an important part of their identity and shared common experience of growing up as Brown Americans will play an important role in shaping their world view.

    Its more varied. They may and they may not. Add to the fact that more indians arrive from overseas than are born here and influence the kid growing up. add to that what the interests are. I moved here when i was 15(prior to that i had spent my 1st grade in US then moved back to india) and still i dont have that much common with many folks who moved here at that age. we are a varied lot. I mean so many folks are into indian movies here than most of the other indian folks i hang out with. I am a vegan so my association in that sphere reflect the ecclectic group from all over the world. We will have overlapping identities.

  40. guru, i don’t think anyone begrudges india its economic success

    RTA I dont really know where you take my post being that. My comments on political games being played were to address the tolerance issue brought up and the indian americans being arms of india….

    f someone is talking about a ‘primordial’ link to mother india it seems to me something deeper and more significant than investment and economic development. the analogy with jews works here, as the american jewry does, by and large, have a ‘primordial’ link with the nation-state of israel as an expression of their national aspirations. to some extent jews have gotten a pass, in part because of their high status and cultural fluency, and in part because israel is a small state which does not seem to require direct military aid against the arabs.

    I agree on that but disagree on the direct military aid part. Political leverage and overt cashflow has kept israel afloat. American military industries are lobbied to include israeli subcontractors and thus technology transfers.

    i don’t think indian americans would get such a pass

    . I dont think so either. But indian americans will use there increasing leverage and try to see how far it goes. Indians dont dominate the intellegensia as the jews do so its difficult challange.

    i don’t think that indian american 2nd and 3rd gen have a specific ‘primordial’ link to mother india, because i don’t think an analogy between ‘indians’ and ‘jews’ is appropriate (india is ethnic diverse, and as a nation-state it is new creation, though not as a cultural region).

    I also disagree on the idea of india as a nation. Amartya Sen once cut sunil khilnani off in a telvised conference over that issue and launched a verbal fact throwing arguements starting from ashoka,to ramayana to mani. I also disagree on the primordial links of 2nd and 3rd generation types. The 2nd gens i meet are a varied lot but I’ve met several who dont care for a brown identity and consider themselves americans. Mostly such folks are more close to white americans. But the variance is quite high. Some trinidad folks considered themselves closer to carribeans, some to browns…I know of a trini indian HSS organizer(a rss related org) too. The fellow does not speak any hindi but is involved in it. Gujurati Swami Narayan group has members that are sometims 4 generation removed from main land india mostly via africa,but some via indonesia, malaysia and thailand also. The fact that they still chose to identify with swami narayan group which also is politicaly involved in india and elsewhere means that it was by choice and not a gujrati fraternity of sort. Generational things are not so 2nd gen=SA and 1st gen=indian.

    in short, going back to anna’s original post, i think the issue can be understand more clearly if we acknowledge its inherent complexity and texture. the problem i have is the attempt to dismiss or delegitimize anna & co’s generation of a particular identity because it does not toe the party line of other groups. this is not a black & white issue, some here clearly disagree with anna’s conception of a pan-south asian identity, but they grant that it is a real possibility that is not negated by the facts on hand.

    The issue of identity is what essentialy upto the individual. So there are myriads of identies that people will chose forthemselves. The issue i have with her proposition is that SA/SAA includes indian americans, Hell no!. that is the same as saying there is only an indian identity. Especialy now that SA has political connottaion and increasingly indian american also.

  41. Regarding hybrids are we discussing mules here. :-) Cultures as well as individulas adopt and assimilate ideas from another culture/individuals all the time. What makes you think that those who chose to identify themselves as Indian Americans have not adopted/adopt food,culture,music,literature,lifestyle,etc from other sources and dont enjoy doing so.

    taking on habits or interests from sources other than india is possible, but not the same thing as having an identity developed in hybridity. i don’t think one is better or worse than the other, but different. for example i’m sure there are some people for whom baseball and cricket are both basic parts of their understanding of sport

  42. Political leverage and overt cashflow has kept israel afloat. American military industries are lobbied to include israeli subcontractors and thus technology transfers.

    this is very tangential, but israel’s existence is not contingent on american aid. my reading has suggested that american (gov.) aid only began in great amounts after the 1967 war. the israeli advantage over the arabs is NOT technological, it could be argued that they were at some disadvantage in that count in all the wars with the arabs up until yom kippur (which they almost lost!). the israeli advantage is culture, in that israelis will actually fight for their nation. the arab armies are riven by clan and familial faction and simply can not mobilize force in a coherent and organized faction. american subsidizes (to some extent) israel’s relatively high standard standard of living, but, the existence of israel can be put at the doorsteps of the lack of power of arab nationalism, not american aid (and as we know, during the 1948 war israel received more aid from the soviet bloc than the USA anyhow).

    I also disagree on the idea of india as a nation. Amartya Sen once cut sunil khilnani off in a telvised conference over that issue and launched a verbal fact throwing arguements starting from ashoka,to ramayana to mani.

    please note that i did say india had a cultural unity or affinity. definitions of “nationality” usually presuppose either a) a one state/gov b) one people. for the vast majority of india’s history it has not been one state, and the subcontinent is characteristic by ethno-linguistic diversity. this is not to deny that there is an overall commonality, but, i would argue that india’s cognate is not france, poland or greece, but the european union. that is, europe as a whole is clearly a cultural unit, and today it is tying itself together into a supranational unit. i think india is a case where you have multiple ethnic groups tied together in a supranational unit, though that unit has a basis in cultural realities. the preceding summation is in itself simplistic as the ‘ethnic’ units that people perceive are to some extent prior to the modern era simply lines on the map, or define elite literate traditions which mask graduated clinal variation on the ground. to use a point of comparison a strong argument can be made that france as a nation as we understand it did not exist prior to 1800, as local identities and languages were VERY strong before the republican gov. crushed them (rather self-consciously) and imposed standard parisian french upon the nation. this semantic quibbling is necessary because people here freely make analogies between indians and greeks, for example, when i think the analogies mislead since the greeks (hellenes) have been ethno-lingistic self-conscious and unitary since antiquity, though their national unity has only been extent over the past 150 years. similarly, china has a political entity has existed periodically since 200 BCE (and the han ethnic identity dates from a dynasty that which was founded in this time).

    i agree with your comment on variation.

  43. this is very tangential, but israel’s existence is not contingent on american aid. my reading has suggested that american (gov.) aid only began in great amounts after the 1967 war. the israeli advantage over the arabs is NOT technological,

    Israel also played the US and soviet game for influence. I could go on about this and have a give and take on that. Access to better radars, better encrypted and interference ressitant wireless communication increases are helpful, so is the ability to monitor eavesdrop and an overt aid in excess of $9bill a yr makes a huge difference. With that said its not that the aid receiving party are bunch of duds. They are smart and ferrocious when it comes to military tactics. But the point was that american jewery has helped israel.

  44. Can we still comment here if we’re Indian, American, global, Indian-American, South Asian, and feel that, as DesiDancer, siddhartha and I have been alluding to all along (and have been largely ignored for saying so): “Identity is not only up to the individual, it’s contextually what suits them?”

    Or do you have to want to be Indian-American or South Asian? yawn

    Happy New Year!

  45. you know, it’s not that i WANT to be south asian, it’s that i just am. i know, it’s boring and tedious to discuss how i label myself but it’s relevant, because it mirrors how and why this site labels itself– something people feel passionately for and against.

    when asked “what are you?” i could reply “indian”, but when i blurt that out, it often means i’ll get asked “oh, what tribe?”. for that reason alone, i adore SAA, since it preempts my red dot getting replaced by a feather. yes, yes…of course if i get a confused look, i add that my parents were from india, and i have no problem doing so. why would i? i’m not ashamed of such an awesome place, especially when it contains Kerala.

    it’s not as if this is fun for me. i’m an american who doesn’t look it. ethnically, i’m indian. socially, i’m brown, since i don’t see much of a difference between erstwhile guest bloggers Ads and Saheli, even though only one is from the same country my grandparents are buried in. if i were IN india, i wouldn’t call myself SA. i’d be indian, just as i’m an american here. but it’s never going to be that easy, not for a long while, and definitely not while people STILL profess surprise at how good my english is (less than 48 hours ago) or assume that i wasn’t born here (less than 24).

    happy new year.

  46. I grok, ANNA, because I get the exact same (re)actions you do. [Every time someone commends my English, I automatically blurt out, "Yeah, you know English that came from that country called England that's not in the US." So, I come off as an asshole, so what? The person who brought it on came off as an idiot.]

    What I ask you, and all the mutineers, is this: Does SM have to take on an official identity as Indian-American, South Asian American or what have you? A lot of you had the good fortune of being genetically Indian but born and/or raised in the States, while some of us have Indian DNA, but were born in X, raised in Y, Z, AA, BB and then moved to the States, and speak perfectly good American English along with our native languages and a number of others gathered along the way. Even in the States, we’ve moved around and have been Yankees and Southerners, among other subcultures like Midwestern and Bicoastal. After a while, a tangible identity, viz. one that you can put adjectives to, loses meaning and you just are who you are, minus all the hyphenated precursors to your Americanness (barring the hyphen in my own last name, of course :-) ).

    That’s the extent of my point.

  47. South Asian is a perfectly fine label, as long as we keep in mind that it’s about as definitive as white or black. I think all the contention starts when we start trying to give it certain characteristics. I personally don’t think it’s much more than just ‘brown’.

  48. Does SM have to take on an official identity as Indian-American, South Asian American or what have you?

    SM’s official identity is “brown”; when 192 of you read us via Bloglines, it still says “All that flavorful brownness in one savory packet” right underneath our name. The problem is, once again, we’re competing with yet another ethnic group. Just as Native Americans get to be “Indian” like we do, hispanics are also “brown”. The chicana girls i went to catholic school with all loved Lighter Shade of Brown, when they came out with that joint where they were “chillin’ at the park, just waitin’ for the sun to go down”.

    I’m all about the “brown”– I use it all the time, to the point where poor http://www.indiandating.com is transformed in my everyday speech and blogging…90% of the people i interact with really think there IS a “browndating dot com”, b/c i say it so much. But if you think “South Asia” is confusing, then surely you must grok that brown doesn’t even get us as far as that “academic” term, even if it’s a natural choice in this black and white nation. At the end of the day, we’re a blog that exists for and about the South Asian diaspora, even if my fellow mutineers and I are almost always Indian. Nothing’s perfect. Not the nomenclature, not the bloggers who write here, not these pained explanations, nothing. We don’t have to take on any official identity besides “Mutinous”, but that doesn’t alter reality– we’re South Asian Americans who write about more than India or Indians. Just because we don’t officially state something, that doesn’t stop it from being true.

  49. Okay, last comment on this thread because I’ve said my piece and plenty already: have most of you been told that your English is good? I keep reading these experiences and I’ve never been told that. If anything, I get more questions from browns here in the city about my origin, than I did from non-browns back in the small town of square state I’m from. Or maybe I’m misremembering or something. I’ve been known to do that.

    But I do know no-one has ever said to me:. “Oh, your English is so good.” I mostly get asked, by browns from the mid-east, or Africans or, oddly enough from European immigrants, “where are you from?” For some reason non-desi browns and non-browns alike never get my ethnicity and these days I get the most questions from people who are Iranian or Saudi Arabian or whatever. “Are you a mix?” they always ask. I don’t mind. Seems like a perfectly reasonable question to me. Okay, last thought on identity: siddhartha did say it best – it’s fluid, personal, and evolving.