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January 26, 2004

Transnational analogies

I recently read several books on race relations in Brazil. They shook me,because some Brazilians of African ancestry sometimes espouse a very individualistic ethos, but seem to take rational discrimination from whites for granted. In any case, I was thinking of Brazil's similarities with India, another nation that is racially diverse, but attempts to mold its identity as a unified whole based on a common civilizational mythology.

But the analogy just didn't work in my head. Dalits, unlike Afro-Brazilians, have been active in pushing for group rights for 50 years, like African Americans. Indian society is explicitly segmented, with various caste-groupings overlaying individualistic values and undergirding the national identity. In some ways, it resembles the end-state that the United States seems to be evolving toward.

Then I thought of an better model-Pakistan!. Muslims Pakistanis reject caste on principle, and are apt to assert that they are a casteless society. This is true de jure, but South Asian Muslims do have their own forms of caste, and some have asserted that foreign ashraf Muslims have used the myth of Islamic unity to mask their domination of the indigenous converts.

Any comments from Pakistani readers?

Posted by razib at 11:09 PM