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October 13, 2003

American "genocide"

Hugo Chavez has been standing up for the indigenous peoples of the Americas and denouncing 'Columbus Day'. Aside from the political issues, I found there were some ironies in this. According to the State Department the racial breakdown of Venezuelans is as follows: 68 percent mestizo, 21 percent unmixed Caucasian, 10 percent black, and 1 percent Indian. Chavez himself looks to be a mestizo with a great deal of indigenous ancestry[1]. But I suspect that he delievered his speech in the official language of Venezuela, Spanish, in a nation that is over 95% Christian, mostly Roman Catholic[2].

A few points of history. Disease killed many of the native peoples-there simply weren't enough Spaniards to do all the killing before the invention of machine guns. Also, population replacement and displacement are historical realities and applying 21st century morality to events of past centuries gets dicey, after all, all peoples are guilty of genocide in its most broad definition. Reflecting on these points, the importance of the displacement of the native peoples of the New World was not that they were displaced, but that white people did the displacing. And that is the greatest sin of all....

fn1. With 400 years of admixture the relationship between proportion of ancestry and phenotype can be muddled.

fn2. Venezuela is a Latin American country where Protestantism has made few inroads. The Catholic Monarchs would have been proud!

Posted by razib at 01:04 PM




It's a complex history, no doubt-but the Sioux "wars", for example, are hardly ancient. The massacre at Wounded Knee was only in 1890-my great grandfather was an adult. That was exactly then what it looks like today: cold blooded murder.
Anyone who won't acknowledge Custer and his bloodthirsty gang of homicidal maniacs were justifiably and deservedly wiped out, or that the wrong party eventually triumphed in the larger struggle, is a knave or an idiot.
Crazy Horse. What a great American.
I still get sad thinking about that stuff.

Posted by: martin at October 13, 2003 01:48 PM


Razib: " With 400 years of admixture the relationship between proportion of ancestry and phenotype can be muddled "

Interesting! I suppose you mean that the actual proportion of amerindian blood in hispanic countries is greater than what the phenotypes reflect. You must be right there, since the Spaniards were heavily outnumbered by the indigenous populations. You would have expected the Spaniards to leave an insignificant legacy in genetic terms.

Posted by: eufrenio at October 13, 2003 02:36 PM


Don't forget that disease was used as a weapon, and wasn't merely a passive force that swept over the continent. Small-pox infected blankets were sent by the U.S. military to the Indians as a form of germ warfare:

http://www.college.ucla.edu/webproject/micro12/webpages/indianssmallpox.html

Yes, imperialism is not at all unique to western culture, but I don't think that it should be celebrated either. Settlement could have been conducted differently. Jefferson and Hamilton even discussed giving states to the Iroquois and the southeastern "Five Civilized Tribes", but others just didn't care.

Posted by: Chris W at October 13, 2003 04:54 PM


I suppose you mean that the actual proportion of amerindian blood in hispanic countries is greater than what the phenotypes reflect. You must be right there, since the Spaniards were heavily outnumbered by the indigenous populations

no, that's not what i meant necessarily. assume random mating (not realistic) in a given population and phenotype locii will resegregate in a variety of ways creating a continuum of phenotype. and it's not relevant that the spanish men were outnumbered, the early years of settlement were characterized by polygany.

see:

Mestizaje in Ibero-America / Claudio Esteva-Fabregat ; translated by John Wheat
Publisher Tucson : University of Arizona Press, c1995

mtDNA & Y chromosome studies bear this out-female mtDNA from the New World and European (Spanish) Y chromosomal lineages.

and of course i don't mean to excuse genocide-and yes, there were conscious attempts at germ wafare, but it seems clear that most of the time plague preceded colonization or was cocomittant.

Posted by: razib at October 13, 2003 06:07 PM


"Anyone who won't acknowledge Custer and his bloodthirsty gang of homicidal maniacs were justifiably and deservedly wiped out, or that the wrong party eventually triumphed in the larger struggle, is a knave or an idiot. "

Gee, Martin, don't tell us what you really think about people whi disagree

Posted by: Jason Soon at October 13, 2003 11:15 PM


Gee, Martin, don't tell us what you really think about people whi disagree
Oh please. Martin is right on this one - it's simply silly to dismiss genocide in the American context by saying "other people did it too."

What happened to the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas was a terrible crime, whether or not it was committed by "white people", and though Hugo Chavez is a dangerous demagogue, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Would Razib be so quick to defend the British if it were the Amritsar Massacre that were being addressed? Would you, who I assume to be of Korean ancestry, be clamoring to defend the Japanese for their use of Korean women as sex slaves, the experiments of Unit 731, or the Nanjing Massacre, if someone were to raise these issues as a point of contention?

There's nothing unique about pointing out historical iniquities in the manner Chavez has done, and it happens in other contexts all the time. Implying as Razib has here that this is all about "hating whitey" is simply ridiculous. It plays to the craving for victim status that many white people feel, but with which I share no sympathy. I am well aware of the privileges of my background, and I wouldn't want to be Asian, Hispanic or anything else for all the goodies affirmative action might offer.

Posted by: Hanno Buddenbrook at October 14, 2003 02:09 AM


Would Razib be so quick to defend the British if it were the Amritsar Massacre that were being addressed

what the fuck should i care about amritsar? because i'm brown? and i've defended british colonialism many a times, it got rid of stupid practices like suttee and gave india is a semi-civiilized political arrangement.

my major point is the irony that leaders like chavez lead a latin american country while devaluing what led to their own creation. if the spaniards had not come-then latin america would never have existed (or hugo chavez).

additionally, the kill-off of the native americans (by disease) would have happened no matter what unless first contact happened after widespread use & understanding of vaccinations & modern health. so emphasizing the conscious physical slaughter is obviously political, the manchus killed the oryats, men, women and children with cannon & sword, the hordes of the mongols and turks earlier on did the same to dari speaking (more or less) peoples in central asia, etc. etc. (when the arabs invaded sindh in the 8th century they slaughtered the male populations of many cities).

as i've noted, where i live, oregon, was nearly empty and reforested when european settlers showed up-because of plague brought by trappers and spanish & russian traders the previous century.

everyone can point to european perfidy all they want, but it is not particular or peculiar, it is standard human behavior. the european expansion into the new world was demic diffusion with admixture (latin america) and replacement. it's happened before (where are the khoisan of eastern and southern africa?). it isn't morally easy to justify, but it is pointed to as a special blot on human history. it isn't. the dehumanization of the native peoples in latin america is something we know about because of dissents from jesuits and officials of the crown who saw european colonials behaving in a state of nature.

so let me reiterate, the decimination of native americans sucked. but so did the thousand other deciminations. what was great was that the people who were directly and indirectly responsible felt responsible at some point, initially they were isolated clerics, intellectuals and ineffectual monarches like charles, holy roman emperor, etc. but now we have come to the point where western civilization acknowledges the blood on its hands. and irony of irony, catholic spanish speakers who have a fair amount of spanish blood are acknolwedging it. but there is a step beyond acknowledging debts of blood and sins of history to denying the good that western civilization has contributed.

back to amritsar since hanno has brought my race (a classification that's not personally important to me, but be as that may be)-colonialism was good for india. let me repeat that again. colonialism was good. when the british showed up, they brought their christianity and scientific racism, but they were faced with political anarchy, a declining despotic muslim order, a rising but unorganized hindu polity, incursions from afghanistan, etc. additionally, disgusting practices like child prostitution and suttee occured among hindus while muslims were the intolerant bigots that they often are today. after colonialism india produced its own elite class of liberal letters and political arts. for the good!

as for the native american genocide. a note of caution-remember that the aztecs were brought down by the collusion of peoples like the mixtecs with the spanish. why did some groups collude with the aztecs? flowery wars.

Posted by: razib at October 14, 2003 02:24 AM


Hanno, calm down
My sarcastic remark was aimed at the fact that I thought Martin had gratuitiously dropped some remark on Custer's last stand and all the knaves and idiots who love Custer when Razib's piece was mostly about the tendency to exaggerate the complicity of whites in genocide and about pointing out that some of the genocide was unintentionally caused. I have written my fair share on my blog on Aboriginal land rights so I don't think I can be accused of being blind to this stuff.

Incidentally I'm not Korean (not that there's anything wrong with being Korean, well, aside from the food) - this is the 3rd time I've been mistaken for Korean on this blog. I'm Chinese - Hakka on father's side, Hokkien on mother's,

Posted by: Jason Soon at October 14, 2003 04:08 AM


what the fuck should i care about amritsar? because i'm brown?
Nice language there, but no, not because you're brown, but because you're clearly of Indian extraction, so one would expect the issue to be brought home more clearly to you. If you mean to imply that you have absolutely no links binding you to India other than your name, fine then, but it was absolutely legitimate for me to bring up Amritsar.

Anyway, my broader point still stands. That atrocities have been carried out elsewhere does not mean that we are somehow obliged to ignore those that are of direct relevance to us. Would you have Hugo Chavez complain about Bantu or Japanese atrocities, simply to show he wasn't fulminating against "whitey?" And so what if he wouldn't be where he is without Spanish colonialism? That line of argument sounds suspiciously like Maureen Dowd's accusation that Clarence Thomas showed insufficient "gratitude." One can benefit from a historic injustice and still condemn it, without the slightest bit of contradiction or hypocrisy.

Jason, sorry about the mistake in ethnic identity. Your last name does sound Korean though, at least to my relatively uninformed ears. Looking it up, I see that the Soong family, whose last name bears such a resemblance to yours, was apparently of Hakka extraction, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, at least in retrospect.

Posted by: Hanno Buddenbrook at October 14, 2003 05:23 AM


Yes Jason gratuitous, but the timing was there. I'm presently reading in depth about those events, and the injustice is so raw, I am still pissed.
As far as being nonresponsive to the post-hey sometimes I comment without even reading the post!

Posted by: martin at October 14, 2003 06:56 AM


Jason Soon:

I'm Chinese - Hakka on father's side, Hokkien on mother's,
I'm ashamed o admit I'm not up on chinese ethnicities. What exactly is the difference?

Posted by: John Purdy at October 14, 2003 09:01 AM


Yer outta yer gourd, Jason--Korean food completely rocks in a restaurant setting. Living with it in your fridge would be more problematic, I grant you. Kimchi is like culinary universal acid in there...

Posted by: Justin Slotman at October 14, 2003 09:09 AM


John:
I'm ashamed to admit I'm not up on chinese ethnicities. What exactly is the difference?
Hokkiens, aka Fukkienese or Fujianese, are one dialect group heavily represented in Taiwan, and in Fujian province, which is right across from Taiwan. There's also lots of them in SE Asia, but not so much in the US until recently, especially among illegals. Their dialect sounds pretty nasal. If you meet a Chinese guy who can't pronounce an "f" sound, he's probably Hokkien. Some famous Hokkiens are the current and past presidents of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng Hui.

Hakkas, we're the wandering Jews of the Chinese, basically. We're so clannish and thrifty/hardy that the other Chinese people complain about it. And no one knows exactly where we came from, though everyone has lots of theories. Plenty of Hakkas in Indonesia, Netherlands, Jamaica, and Mauritius. Some in Malaysia, east Guangdong, and Taiwan as well. Famous Hakkas: just about everyone =). Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew and national father Sun Yat Sen come to mind. Allegedly the restaurant closest to the North Pole is owned by a Hakka. But I'm starting to think that's an urban legend.

Posted by: Eric Lien at October 14, 2003 10:53 AM


That atrocities have been carried out elsewhere does not mean that we are somehow obliged to ignore those that are of direct relevance to us

my point, which don't seem to address is that 90-99% of the kill-off was due to disease. to state that the conquistadors destroyed the new world civilizations is just false. false. emphasizing european volition in this act is a use of history for politics, since the problem was that europeans made contact at all.

so one would expect the issue to be brought home more clearly to you

ah, you know the details of "people of indian extraction." my family is muslim, we don't have a close affiliation with the indian national movement and weren't too excited about switching a relatively benovelant overlord for those who had less reason to be emotionally uninvovled (the hindus). the problem i have with patronizing whites like you hanno is that have decided to place us in whatever classification you wish ("indian extraction," "korean") that is often insufficiently detailed or inappropriate (like columbus calling the native americans "indians" because they had brown skins) and also assuming that we should all have racial & ethnic consciousness on some level. do you as a white man have racial and ethnic consciousness about the injustices done to your ethnic group or are you just too far above that?

Posted by: razib at October 14, 2003 11:33 AM


my family is muslim, we don't have a close affiliation with the indian national movement and weren't too excited about switching a relatively benovelant overlord for those who had less reason to be emotionally uninvovled
Well, that's certainly an interesting perspective. One learns something new every day.

do you as a white man have racial and ethnic consciousness about the injustices done to your ethnic group or are you just too far above that?
I'm of predominantly English and German extraction. What injustices am I supposed to be conscious about?

Posted by: Hanno Buddenbrook at October 14, 2003 12:35 PM


History is never right or wrong. History is History. Judging by modern standards, there is nothing in Human history to be proud of except for the hippies, the 1960s and whatever followed it (to some extent - and that too would only apply to the west). In the context of man's long existence as a civilized being, that isnt even a drop in the Ocean.

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 14, 2003 02:28 PM


"I'm of predominantly English and German extraction. What injustices am I supposed to be conscious about?"

What about the Romans? :D

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 14, 2003 02:32 PM


when hanno asked his question, i automatically thought of boudica ;)

Posted by: razib at October 14, 2003 02:37 PM


Honno,

Interesting point about Amristsar. In the context of large scale slaughter by Moslem invaders in the long bloody history of over a thousand years preceding British colonial rule, this was a picnic.

I wouldnt use a four letter word (though like Razib Im really tempted to here) but lets can this bullshit shall we? Lets have a sense of proportion about things.

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 14, 2003 02:37 PM


It seems to me that whenever third world leaders start talking about how evil white people were, they are often engaged in some huge crime against their own people and trying to cover up. Chavez is following policies that are making his country poor and repressive yet the fault is the "white mans". Robert Mugabe heavily repressed and murdered large numbers of black people (the Ndebele) in the 1980s, is currently following policies that are leading to mass starvation, and is stealing farms and making them unproductive while crying out about racism in the West. I think that most of this rhetoric is a cover for the criminal behavior of many third world rulers which they use to deflect criticism from a guilt ridden and gullible west.

Also, just as a question, I did not believe that many people were actually killed at Amritsar. I thought the big massacres in India occurred after the Sepoy rebellion was put down.

Posted by: Larry Levin at October 14, 2003 05:06 PM


" thought the big massacres in India occurred after the Sepoy rebellion was put down."

Larry,

The Sepoy Rebellion was a war. I think the reason people bring up Amritsar this often is because this involved innocent civilians.

I think the figure for Amritsar was less than five hundred. Actually, its amazing that people never bring up the colonial government's biggest failing while ruling India - permitting the massacre of thousands during partition. That was actually far worse than anything that occured in Amritsar.

However, the reason they dont bring it up is because it doesnt just make the British look bad. It makes the Indians look worse as Hindus and Moslems slaughtered each other on a frightening scale.

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 14, 2003 11:14 PM


The BBC estimates half a million died during India's partition:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/102201.stm

Posted by: Peter Phillips at October 14, 2003 11:24 PM


Genocide usually is the wholesale replacement\extermination and is in close leagues with demic diffusion. Variously it could be caused by men's capriciousness (executing the population after war), advantages in immunity, technological breakthrough or merely colonisation (Nepalis in Sikkim).

However it has been a rare occurrence in the history of settled population because of the aversion of conquerors of destroying their own economic base. Hence the imperial accounts of slaughter and wholesale massacres are often exaggerated because it would destitute the entire province.

Razib, I would believe that the Mongol destruction of Iranic Central is overstated to a great degree. Historians like Juvyani were keen to please their Mongol patrons with legends of their destructiveness (on the other hand Rumi's family did flee to Konya? from Afghanistan because of the Mongol threat, a case in point in the effectiveness of Mongol propaganda).

Notwithstanding the devastation of the qanats in Khorasan, Iran & Central Asia (incl. the affected regions) made a rapid recovery under the Mongols. After all to this day 50% of the population in Uzbekistan is estimated to be Tajiki, despite centuries of assimilation into the Turkic culture.

BTW I'm interested to see the sources on the Arab invasion of Sindh. If the population had been systematically exterminated then to this day Sindh would have retained a deep Arab character, which it does not have (Bin Qassam invasion in 711 notwithstanding Islam had an insignificant impact in Pakistan till the influx of the Ghaznavid-Ghoris).

I have yet to see convincing evidence of the "atrocities" of the Arabs during the Islamic invasions and the imperial nature of the early Arab rulers -hands off as long as the loot flows in- is a corollary for Muslim rule in India.

For instance the plunder of Somnath was a raid rather than an organised act of terror. If there had been systematic attempts at genocide, as in the Americas, one can be very certain that Hinduism would have been snuffed out of existence.

Moreso in a Sub-continent stratified by class, caste and creed it is counterfactual and divisive to continually highlight examples of "Muslim rule of terror in India". Yes there were wars, injustices perpetrated and intolerance but that would be expected after a millennia of imperial dynamics and rule (Hindu India has Kalinga). However the arrival of Islam was a catalyst for cultural achievements that have stood the test of time and unleashed a synthesis between cultures not to be seen for centuries. If there is a unitary South Asian culture, as is commonly asserted, it's framework was laid down during Islamic times.

As for British imperialism I retain a degree of gratitude for the positive acts instituted. However the Sepoy Rebellion, the Amritsar massacre and the Battle of Plassey are a blot in history, which built up the case for independence. It was not so much as the act itself but the lack of remorse following it that inflamed the hearts of the natives (the General in Amritsar retired to a hero's welcome in England). The Mughals may have been culturally haughty but they eventually "Indianised" (for lack of a better word) whereas the British remained an alien presence.

Peter, the figures for Partition are generally unknown however intelligent estimates would place them at significantly lower levels than half a million. There were few "hotspots" therefore refugees were able to migrate, relatively peacefully, to the other side.

Europe has a history of deliberately "cleansing" of unwanted minorities, which frankly has continued up to present day with Kosovo, whereas such malevolency did not exist in the Sub-continent (population transfer occurred at Partition and the following wars). There is a qualitative difference at systematic extermination and spill of communal tensions. Us "Brown folk" (a crude term I take to imply Muslims and Asians west of Tibet) may be guilty of the latter from time to time but at least we have never committed the former.

Posted by: Zachary Latif at October 15, 2003 12:22 AM


from CIA factbook:
Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5% (1996 est.)

and yes-i know the construction of "uzbek" and "tajik" is partially artificial. and i don't really put much faith in the stories of mongol slaughter. my point is that there was a shift from an indo-european dari speaking civilization toward a mosaic where turks were the dominant presence. this did not occur without some marginalization of the native stock. "genocide" as used today does not just mean active physical violence, it means eradication of culture as well....

the "muslim" vs. "hindu" dichotomy is ahistorical-true, but i'm not going to deny the power of perception. to address the topic with any nuance starts to elevate it to such an extent that it loses touch with the reality that is perceived by the common believer in modern times.

as for specifics in sindh, etc., not that i said cities. the stuff i've read was probably exaggerated, nonetheless, wars tend to involve decimation of native male elites.

as for your point about the importance of muslims in shaping indian self-conceptions, that's true, and the analogy to europeans in the new world is apropriate, the destruction of the amity of hindu or new world culture was sad, but in the irony is that the identity of the world afterwards was shaped by the intrusion....

The Mughals may have been culturally haughty but they eventually "Indianised" (for lack of a better word) whereas the British remained an alien presence.

i don't really buy this. persian was the court language and a majority of the courtiers were still from iran & turan. indianization occured, but was it that different than that of british nabobs? in india, not of it say i. perhaps you have a different perspective as a pakistani, but most of my parent's pakistani (and bangladeshi as well) friends have a dual self-conception, though in practicality they are more like indians (physique, food, history, etc.) their spirit and heart is pulled to islam first & foremost.

Posted by: razib at October 15, 2003 12:38 AM


My post should be shorter but I don't have the time:) (which is actually true in that it is easier to write a long passage then a truly concise one).

Granted the Uzbek\Tajik ethnic dicothomy is quite artificial and in its stead ther were three categories of population in civilised Central Asia (modern day Uzbekistan). The first category is the "Sart", settled population (predominantly Tajik), followed by the two tribal groupings; Turki (Turkmen) and Qipchaq (the authentic Uzbek).

The imperial conquest of the 15th centuries replaced the dominant *Turkmen* culture with Qipchaq. Nevertheless the Tajik population of Uzbekistan (except in Bukhara-Samarkand and the southeast) merely give their ethnicity as Uzbek because they are bilingual and in the throe of assimilation. Therefore the population figures for Tajiks in Uzbekistan could be as high as 50% irrespective of CIA world factbook figures.

The shift in culture depends on what you mean by it. The Central Asian ethos, as distinct from culture, is distinctly Iranian as reflected by millenia of settlement and the fact that Uzbeks still eat pilov. Dari, till the end of the Khanate of Bukhara, was the language of court and high culture during the "Turkic" era. Furthermore it was Turks like Ghaznavid and Ghauri who were responsible for the dissemination of Persian imperial culture.

I believe that none can point to a specific break in history when Central Asia "Turkicised".

My query in Sindh relates to a deeper issue in that Muslims historically have never been complicit in genocide or wholesale population replacement as Europeans have. Debate there may be of the "Arabization" of the MENA region but that was an example of elite cultural dominance moreso than population replacement (Arab immigrants in North Africa had never been higher than 10%). The Spanish killed off the Gaunche, whereas the Muslims would have merely converted and steadily assimilated them to Arabic speaking culture:)

There is a qualitative difference between Muslim imperialism in the Sub-continent and European settlement of the Americas in that rustic Hindu culture wasn't eliminated nor substantially affected. Hindu culture found it's bastion in village life, which continued as it always had. Indeed it has been mentioned that the survey about Indian independence was killed in it's tracks after most Indian villagers had not even realised that the British had come to India in the first place.

"Indianisation" is a very nuanced topic and it depends on what is defined as an Indian. I define "India", more appropiately Hindustan (or neutrally, Sindastan), as a continent analogous to Europe. In times past Europeans had a deep affinity for Christianity and therefore it is no contradiction that the ties of Islam are stronger for some Hindustanis.

The Turkic Bulgars "Europeanised" and in the same way the Mughals "Indianised" through intermarriage, patronage of the arts (economically disastrous but at least we got Taj Mahal) and eventually their language (Urdu is but a Persian rose blooming in an Indian summer).

The Mughals treated the sub-continent as their own whereas the British were conscious of their distinctiveness. Furthermore the Brits educated legions of Indian subjects, conscious of their lop-sided status quo and the humiliation of always playing second-jester to Europeans (in their favour they were the first conquerors to make some attempt at mass-education).

Muslims have always been "culturally" conscious (of course in the Arabian nights there is a clear partiality for lighter appearance) whereby assimilation in the Arab-Muslim matrix was the way to the top (replace Arab for Turko-Persian in the latter years). Europeans were far more adept in discerning differences of colour and race, which could not even be ameliorated by Christianisation.

Zack

Links:
http://www.iles.umn.edu/faculty/bashiri/Courses/Uzbek.html
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/5246/Bukhara.html

Posted by: Zachary Latif at October 15, 2003 08:02 AM


The Turkic Bulgars "Europeanised" and in the same way the Mughals "Indianised"

the analogy is interesting, but does not work on this level, the Bulgars were pure barbarians. not only did they abandon their own language for that of their uncivilized (at the time) Slavic subjects-they adopted the religion of the Byzantine Empire. All that remains Bulgar is the name. This did & could not happen with the Mughals for obvious reasons-they brought with them a high culture which made claims of its own universalism that was already highly synthetic in a fashion that made Islam the bedrock but was willing to adding non-Arabo-Islamic layers (Iranian, Turkish, etc.). I think that to say that the Mughals were "Indianized" is to say that the Ummayyads of Al-Andalus was "Hispanicized."

Europeans were far more adept in discerning differences of colour and race, which could not even be ameliorated by Christianisation.

this did not truly come to the fore until after the early 19th century. during the days of the east indies company half-caste soldiers played a crucial role in in the machinations of the "british." and after all, india was conquered by indian sepoys even after the half-caste officers were purged because of their racial impurity (though a non-trivial amount of mixed-race people did go back to england and assimilate before it became socially unacceptable due to scientific racism).

as for your conception that european autocracy was somehow more brutal than non-european (west asian, what have you), i don't agree at all. europeans had better weapons. when given modern weapons plenty of non-european peoples engage in genocide.

additionally, i think a crucial litmus test of european vs. non-european (in this context muslim) brutality is what regime would high caste hindus have preferred??? the sepoy rebellion et al. shows that there was some anti-british feeling, but was this a nostolgia for the days of muslim domination??? of course the high caste hindus had a chance for advancement, perhaps to a greater extent in degree, in the muslim order, but often it would be accompanied by religious conversion. to some this is a trivial price (though muslims seem not to think it when it goes the other way). in the european order, the non-whites could not ascend the ranks to the heights (at first), but, hindus could rise without being disadvantaged in comparison to muslims, and the pressure was convert to christianity was probably milder than to become a muslim.

Posted by: razib at October 15, 2003 11:18 AM


Razib,

I don't see anything wrong with Chavez's statement. It seems natural for any group to celebrate its history because that's how it became itself. It doesn't make sense, though. I am an Israeli Jew and for the first part of the 20th century my ancestors moved around three continents, mostly in response to political events. If it hadn't been for the Nazis I almost certainly would not have existed (I'm not crazy about using that Holocaust card, but I think it makes sense in this case). That doesn't mean that is something I should celebrate. Since Venezuela is both European and Indigenous, it should at least be ambivalent about something like Columbus Day.

Zack,

There is a qualitative difference between Muslim imperialism in the Sub-continent and European settlement of the Americas in that rustic Hindu culture wasn't eliminated nor substantially affected.

Like duh, there's a qualitative difference between European imperialism in the Sub-Continent and European settlement in the Americas as well. The Europeans in India did not eliminate the local culture either - so that when discussing the relative merits of European vs. Muslim imperialism we can leave elimination out of it. That's just what Razib was saying - it's mostly diseases that did the eliminating.

The Mughals treated the sub-continent as their own whereas the British were conscious of their distinctiveness.

What exactly does this mean to the ruled, exactly? I think it is neither here nor there. If this means that the Mughals tried to develop their country economically more than the British did because they considered it home, well that's an arguement that should be considered on its own merit.

Furthermore the Brits educated legions of Indian subjects, conscious of their lop-sided status quo and the humiliation of always playing second-jester to Europeans

I'm not sure what that means either. I imagine the Hindus felt humiliation from the hands of Muslims as well (though maybe the humiliation was more acute since they were educated?). Anyway, I wouldn't give that much credit to the British for educating Indians - they needed to do that in order to run their empire, for one thing. In any case, why should the British or the Muslims feel that guilty anyway? Both fought the caste system, in the Muslim case by offering the conversion option (de facto, Indian Muslim society has castes as well, but I assume they are nowhere near as opressive as in Hindu society).

In any case, European imperialism is not one thing, and should not be condemned outright. For Native Americans it was almost certainly a bad thing. For slaves brought from Africa to America as well. For others, pretty much a mixed bag. In any case, these historical judgements are good only for politics.

Posted by: Danny at October 15, 2003 12:02 PM


danny,

i'm not saying that one shouldn't reflect on what has happened and be saddened by what history wrought. i think it is fine for the people of the new world, of all races, to be reflective on the die-off that set the stage for the emergence of the new nations. on the other hand, i am suspicious of the political motives of the likes of chavez, and i feel that there is an overemphasis on the tragedy, and a neglect of the good that came out of an event that as i stated before was in some way probably inevitable because of immunological reasons.

interestingly, i have friend who is half-israeli arab, who would not have existed if it weren't for the state of israel-a state he is very ambivelant about.

Posted by: razib at October 15, 2003 12:59 PM


I don't know how one can judge whether the European conquest of American was a good thing or not (good for whom?), but I agree with most of the points you made. To paraphrase Marx, White Guilt is the Liberalism of Fools.

Posted by: Danny at October 15, 2003 02:04 PM


I think it ultimately boils down to what is meant by Indianisation, Hinduism or even South Asian. The Mughals were heavily Indianised because it was during their rule that the medieval seed of a pan-continental culture was planted. If adherence to the Vedas and assimilation to the caste system are the criteria for Indianisation then of course the Mughals would have failed by that standard.

I am referring to the historical attitude of the imperials at the time. The Mughals, for better or for worse, recognised the Sub-continent as their bastion and identified with it through their courts in Delhi, Lahore (and a slew of other cities I can't recall). The British were alien, and considered to be invaders, because their allegiances and their ultimate source of loyalty was to a monarch on a distant isle. In the end the British may have done much more than the Mughals for the Sub-continent (and for India with Kolkatta-Calcutta, Mumbai-Bombay and Chennai-Madras owing their genesis to British forts and their names to an Anglicised transliteration of Hindu deities) but that distinction remained.

The decimation of the indigenous population of Hispaniola was caused by mass slavery *as well as disease*. To say most of the extermination in the Americas was because of disease is a significant overstatement because there were clear instances when the indigenous population was forcibly decimated or removed. A corrolary is the Aboriginals of Australia, who may have been vanquished by disease, but were furthermore blighted by relocations to the arid zones.

Just as this thread is dedicated to revising White Guilt I am keen to pursue the events for which Muslims should feel guilty for? The stereotype of them as invaders destroying lost cultures and peoples is wholly unfounded. Israel was Christian under the Ummayyads and the Jews had already dispersed.

In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbons movingly recounts the sacking of Constantinople by the Turks but does not mention the fact that Constantinople was being overrun and sacked by Crusaders time and time again!!! Excepting sub-saharan Africa and the tragic events of the Armenian genocide (which was committed by the secular Young Turks) Islamic cultures have never been responsible for genocide.

The BJP may moan the Islamic incursions but I feel no sympathy for the replacement of a high-caste elite with a Muslim one, which at least afforded the chance for upward advancement (even if it is at the cost of one's religion). A Dalit could never amount to anything in a Hinducracy but upon conversion and with luck & guile make something of himself under the Mughals.

Muslims are defined by a certain humanity arising from their belief that anyone can eventually convert to Islam. This humanises them to a great extent, which is why most of the ancient population and religious minorities of the Islamic Crescent linger on to this day. Of course there is the further caveat that the distinction with non-believers is excaberated and grater intolerance for hetrodox beliefs.

Zack

Posted by: Zachary Latif at October 16, 2003 01:01 AM


zack, i think the mughals and muslims crystallized indian self-conception, but i don't think they planted it. i believe that the upanishads and what not stated that the limits of "clean" territory were at the hindu kush, the himalayas and bounded by the seas. there was a geographic and cultural awareness, though most moderns tend to back-project european influenced nationalisms that did not exist. i assume that the term mleccha predates islam.

Posted by: razib at October 16, 2003 01:10 AM


Just as this thread is dedicated to revising White Guilt I am keen to pursue the events for which Muslims should feel guilty for

You're probably right; Muslims did not have the good fortune to discover continents with immunity-deficient natives. Except for Africa, Islam encountered peoples (Christians, Hindus) of roughly the same level of development.

in the Arabian nights there is a clear partiality for lighter appearance [...] Europeans were far more adept in discerning differences of colour and race

Anglo-American racism is quite unique, and hopefully on the way out. More common is subtler color line, as exists in many cultures, including Latin America, and as you say Islam.

BTW, what you say, about the partiality in Islam for lighter appearance, is quite depressing. Is it true? In most cases of preference for lighter skin color this is accompanied by greater cultural prestige for those of lighter color (Aryans-Dravidians in India, Whites-Blacks in America, etc). In Medieval Islam this would not have been the case: the greatest prestige would surely have been descent from the Arabian peninsula, where the people are darker than in, say, Turkey or Persia. Can anyone enlighten me on this subject?

Posted by: Danny at October 16, 2003 04:10 AM


Actually, its amazing that people never bring up the colonial government's biggest failing while ruling India - permitting the massacre of thousands during partition

I nominate the Bengal famine of 1943.

Posted by: bbartlog at October 16, 2003 01:43 PM


I always find it odd when "estadunidenses" defend Columbus. Similarly, when native-Americans denounce "whites"

Columbus and his Spanish contemporaries would have cheerfully massacred the "heretico" ancestors of most modern North Americans. It was only when Spain began to decline in the 17th C. that the English managed to plant a successful colony on the American mainland -- 100 years after the discovery of the continent

Another amusing contradiction is the tendency of native-American activists to use contemporary engravings of Spanish atrocities against Indians to illustrate their arguments. Most of these pictures, of course, were produced in England and Holland

Posted by: toOmUcHWoRK at October 18, 2003 02:25 PM