The decade of the brown

Via the newstab a data heavy piece in Little India:

Census 2010 data shows that the Asian Indian population ballooned 69 percent from 2000, to 2,843,391. Thus far, the Census Bureau has released Asian Indian data only for those who reported a single race. When multiracial Indians (those who reported multiple racial identities) are factored in the Asian Indian population will top 3.2 million, according to Little India analysis.

Nearly 12 percent of the Asian Indian population in the 2000 Census was multiracial. Little India projects that the final count for the Asian Indian population, including multiracial Indians, will fall between 3.2 million to 3.3 million. The Indian population may well have touched 3.5 million, but an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Indians returned to India in recent years after the U.S. economy was jolted by the global financial meltdown.

The multiracial issue touches upon a debate that I had with two of this weblog’s co-founders ~2003: the demographic assimilation or involution of the Indian American “community.” I use quotation marks because I think that though there are commonalities and similarities it’s clearly a rather heterogeneous collection of communities, in the plural. Continue reading

Jatts may indeed be Scythian

In the comments on this weblog over the years I’ve learned a lot of interesting things about South Asian ethnography. One component which has been notable is the sense of ethnic pride of Punjabis, and in particular Jatts. Some of this is rather standard racism against other South Asians, especially South Indians and Bengalis in relation to whom they feel aesthetically superior. But other assertions of distinction are not so charged.

One of the aspects of Jatt identity seems to be the conception that they are descended from “Scythians,” what in a South Asian context would be termed Saka. When some Jatt commenters with whom I had amicable relationships with would bring this up I would gently mock them. My personal stance is that South Asians have an unhealthy obsession with presumed foreign origin, as if being South Asian is somehow shameful. This is very evident amongst Muslims for obvious reasons, insofar as Islam came to the subcontinent from West Asia. But I’ve encountered the same stance amongst Hindus. For example, Kashmiri Pandits explaining their peoples’ Persian origins.

But whatever the demerits of the excessive overall fixation on exogenous origin, I now believe that I wrongly dismissed out of hand the idea that Jatts in particular have some Scythian origin. The reason are a series of results coming out of the Harappa Ancestry Project. To be concise, it does seem that Jatts have a small but consistent proportion of northern Eurasian ancestry which sets them apart from other Punjabis. The most parsimonious explanation to my mind is that the Sakas did indeed have a genetic impact. This does not mean that I have a high confidence in this historical model. But I was clearly in the wrong in dismissing the Scythian origin myth out of hand. For that, I apologize. Also, please note that I am not claiming here that the preponderance of Jatt ancestry is Scythian. It is not. Rather, there may have been a Scythian overlay upon a typical Punjabi substrate.

If you are curious to learn more, please see the comments at the Harappa Ancestry Project. Continue reading

Amongst the natives

Andrew Marantz has written a fascinating piece rich with writerly detail in Mother Jones, My Summer at an Indian Call Center. It tells the tale of the hyper-kinetic and atomizing lives of call center workers, and the transformation that globalization has wrought upon the fabric of Indian society. Marantz’s narrative is filled with vivid characters, some of them almost stock figures. He doesn’t truly lay out an explicit polemic, but I found the subtext to be a touch too romanticizing of the old India with its tight-knit families. In part I suspect he’s simply relaying the sentiments of his sources and the people amongst whom he worked as an expat. But there is a difference between avowed ideals and revealed preferences. Young Indians go into the meat-grinder that is the call center career track of their own free will.

I particularly find the subtext irritating because of the writer’s own background: Continue reading

Data on Indian Americans: religion & politics

Unfortunately there’s not as much quantitative data on Indian Americans as I’d like. To be fair, you can say that about almost anything, by which I mean there’s always a lack of enough data for my taste. One good source is the Religious Landscape Survey. 90% of Indian Americans are not Hindu, but 90% of Hindu Americans seem to be Indian. But that’s suboptimal. The Census has some good information, but is moderately constrained in what it can give you. There is one option which I’ve avoided for a while, the General Social Survey. This is a huge database which you can query if you are comfortable with using forms on the web (you should be). You can limit to people who say that their ancestors are from “India.” Unfortunately the sample size is only in the hundreds.

But I thought I’d give in a try, because I wanted to look at some intra-community cross-tabs. The main aspect I wanted to look at is religion & politics. Indian Americans are overwhelmingly a Democratic-leaning community. But not all. This tendency toward the Democrats has been relatively strong in Asian Americans generally since 1992, when George H. W. Bush won that demographic. And yet I noticed an interesting trend in the American Religious Identification Survey 2008: Asian American Christians were far more sympathetic to Republicans than Asian American non-Christians. The past 20 years has seen a massive rise in the proportion of non-Christian Asians, whether it be Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, or secular. The standard narrative in American politics is that the Republican party is the white Christian party (even more so, the white Protestant party). The Democrats are the coalition of “Others”. Minorities and non-Christian whites (seculars and Jews). This has clear first approximation value, but I think the insight that Asian American Christians are more sympathetic to Republicans than other Asian Americans indicates that there is some texture which can be perceived at a finer-grain.

My goal here is exploratory, and I want to encourage readers to poke around the GSS themselves. In short I limited the data set to 1990 and later, to people who said their ancestry was from India. Unfortunately this is only a few hundred, but it may be informative for large between class differences. I focused on differences across religion and levels of education. Some notes: Continue reading

The Haley bubble

meetnh.jpgUpdate: Nikki Haley’s rise raises tensions back home.

Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley pushes some peoples’ buttons on this weblog. In this way she’s similar to Piyush “Bobby” Jindal. But it seems that the shine has worn off a little on the man with the golden oeuvre. It began with an optically disastrous and widely mocked Republican response to Barack Hussein Obama’s State of the Union speech a few years back. But over the years his wunderkid reputation has moved to the background inevitably as he’s gotten caught up in the same muck which afflicts most politicians who’ve been in the public eye for long enough.

Of course one can’t say that Nikki Haley has avoided muck in her short time in the national spotlight. But she’s new yet, and the media needs a human interest political story, and she certainly presents well.

In the wake of the announcement of her memoir The New York Times gives her the full treatment, South Carolina’s Young Governor Has a High Profile and Higher Hopes: Continue reading

You are your own best confidant

2518493456.jpgIn the wake of the Hermon K. Raju affair, it is a strange coincidence that a young woman named Beejoli Shah has also had a problem with the viral nature of the internet. A letter to 15 friends came back slam her in the face. Ms. Shah is not manifestly odious from what I can tell. If you want to read the blow-by-blow, check out The Superficial for the full email she sent. Basically Beejoli Shah had a kinky sexual encounter with Quentin Tarantino which she just had to tell all her friends via an email draped in thick descriptive prose, along with pointers to biographical context.

It turns out that the Cal graduate has a job at a Hollywood public relations firm. Or perhaps more accurately, she had a job at a Hollywood public relations firm. I don’t feel sorry for how this turned out because of her professional aspirations. You don’t spill the beans until after you’ve made it big. On the other hand, the more general issue is rather disconcerting. Who hasn’t said something stupid or embarrassing? You can make sure to only talk to people about things, and avoid written communication, but now there are relatively easy technologies with which you can record people. Nothing is the off the record in theory. And perhaps soon in practice. I find that rather sad.

As an aside, I checked Google News for the full range of media reaction. It’s an interesting window into cultural differences. India Today has the headline “Quentin Tarantino’s Indian trick”, which I thought was kind of offensive. Does “trick” not have the implication in India that it does in the United States? Continue reading

The Pakistani genome

We’re fast approaching the point where the “first genome” of class X is going to lose its novelty. There are more than 100 people who have had their full genome sequenced, and you can’t really track down a comprehensive list anymore that I can see. Remember, a full genome sequence is a mapping of all 3 billion DNA base pairs. In contrast, what genotyping services offer are a subset, often 1 million base pairs. The 1 million are not random, rather, they are variants which are known to…vary. But there are some important issues which can be addressed only in a full genome sequence. For example, you can see which distinct mutations are unique to you, and separate you from your parents.

In any case, here’s a summary in the Dawn: Continue reading

The Diaspora and human genetics

Earlier this year I expressed excitement that the 1000 Genomes, “A Deep Catalog of Human Genetic Variation,” finally was going to add some more Indian populations. There was a sample of Gujaratis from Houston, but that’s a rather narrow slice of ~1 billion Indians, and nearly ~1.4 billion South Asians. The populations which were going to be added were Kayasthas from West Bengal, Marathas from Maharashtra, and Ahom from Assam.

Unfortunately, as I commented a few days ago that looks like it’s not happening. The Indian population collections have been removed from the website, and replaced by Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamils from the United Kingdom, and Bangladeshis. The Pakistani collection is already in process, as they’re getting the samples from Lahore. Continue reading

Nikki Haley writing a book

Coming soon: Nikki Haley’s memoir:

Just shy of her 40th birthday, Nikki Haley will have a memoir under her belt.

The South Carolina governor’s book, “Can’t is Not an Option”, is expected to hit shelves in January 2012 and will be published by Sentinel, a conservative imprint within Penguin Group.

Elected last fall, Haley, 39, is the nation’s youngest governor.

Haley told The Associated Press in March that in her memoir “she would cover everything from growing up in rural South Carolina to her contentious 2010 campaign, when she faced — and denied — allegations of infidelity.”

Out of curiosity, does anyone read books like this? That is, books written by sitting (or aspirant) politicians obviously meant to burnish their images. Continue reading

Forgotten memories of being desi

Noomi_Rapace.jpgI just recently heard that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was being made into a film. This perplexed me because I thought there was a film adaptation of that novel! Yes, there was, but that was a Swedish production, and the new film is “made in America.” Fair enough.

What does this have to do with this weblog? The actress who plays the protagonist in the Swedish film, Noomi Rapace, had a father who was a Gitano, a Spanish Romani (the term “Roma” is really an ethnonym for the eastern Romani). In case you don’t know, the Romani language is clearly Indo-Aryan. Its closeness to Indo-Aryan dialects of the Indian subcontinent is such that the story goes that Indian sailors who were stationed in Britain overheard, and understood, much of the conversation of local British Gypsies.

The origin of this population in the Indian subcontinent is evident through multiple lines of inquiry. Both in terms of culture, and genetics. Most of the genetic results focus on paternal and maternal lineages, but some “genome bloggers” have obtained samples from people with Roma background, and they clearly have distinctive South Asian ancestry. Because of intermarriage obviously this is not always visibly salient. How many people are aware that Charlie Chaplin was 1/4 Romanichal? Continue reading