I’ve been posting a fair amount about Southeast Asia. This an important part of the world. As outlined in Victor Lieberman’s Strange Parallels, there are similarities to Europe in terms of the ‘naturalness’ of nation-states. Especially in mainland Southeast Asia. Burma is dominated by Burmans. Thailand is dominated by Thais. Laos, but the lowland Lao. Cambodia by the Khmers. And Vietnam by the Kinh. Liberman’s hypothesis is generally geographical. He contends that the ‘protected’ geographic character of mainland Southeast Asia has analogs to Western Europe, which also was relatively sheltered by the impact of the Eurasian steppe.
One of the primary similarities between Europe and mainland Southeast Asia is that there is a combination of deep indigenous ethnocultural traditions as well as important external influences. Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia leverage Indian religious and political theory to maintain coherence. In contrast, Vietnam replicates much of the character of China. The “standard model” has been Indian influence is a function of “cultural diffusion.” But looking more deeply at the genetic data, it seems that 5-20% of the ancestry might be Indian. This is a minority element. But it is not trivial, especially in light of the likely dilutive effects of the Tai migration, as well as the Chinese in Thailand.
In Coronavirus, a ‘Battle’ That Could Humble China’s Strongman. One thing I will say is that public health professionals are focused on the tail risk. The risks are real. But please note that the worst-case scenario may not be the most likely scenario.
A Glittering Crossroads: In Damascus’s Umayyad Mosque, Roman paganism, Christianity, and Shiite and Sunni Islam all intersect. The Umayyad’s are Islam’s “first dynasty.” But they have a bad reputation among Muslims. The Shia hate them because their founder was an enemy of Ali, and eventually killed his grandsons. The Sunnis dislike them because they are perceived as impious Arab warlords, rather than Muslims. The latter view is colored by the commentaries of intellectuals who were patronized by the Abbassids, the successors of the Umayyads. But the piece above illustrates the reality that the Umayyads likely weren’t Muslims as we’d understand it for much of their history.
After Culinary and Literary Acclaim, She’s Moving to the Woods. ‘…every weekend from May to October, 10 people will each pay $750 to nearly $1,000 to relax in the woods and immerse themselves in what some chefs and writers have started calling “new gatherer” or “deep nature” cooking.’