Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

June 27, 2019

6,500,000 words on Gene Expression

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 4:19 am

I installed a plugin that looked into the database to see how many words have been written on this weblog (this includes stuff from ScienceBlogs, Discover, and Unz, as I merged it all in). The total is 6.5 million words published. That’s about 65 400 page books (~100,000 words per book). The peak productivity was when this was an active group blog, between 2004 and 2010.

The average post has 482 words. But there are some huge ones. For example, this 9,000+ word post.

June 26, 2019

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 33: Scandinavian Genetics

Filed under: Genetics,Podcast,The Insight — Razib Khan @ 3:46 pm

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 33: Scandinavian Genetics

Birch Forest

This week on The Insight (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts) Razib talks to Dr. Torsten Gunther about the genetics of ancient Scandinavians.

There are a host of papers one could read to get a sense of this topic:

Much of the discussion revolved around a recent paper, Population genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia: Investigating early postglacial migration routes and high-latitude adaptation. In it, the authors found that gene-flow into Scandinavia after the Ice Age occurred from the east over the northern fringe, and from the west through the southern route. Eventually, these two groups mixed and created the Mesolithic peoples of Scandinavia.

There was mention of the coexistence of various peoples in the early Neolithic. In particular, the descendants of the farming Funnel Beakers, and the hunter and gathering Pitted-Ware culture. We talked about the eventual transition to the Nordic Bronze Age.

Finally, we didn’t talk too much about the Finnic people, but it turns out that these were probably relatively late arrivals: The Arrival of Siberian Ancestry Connecting the Eastern Baltic to Uralic Speakers further East.

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 33: Scandinavian Genetics was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Humanity on the edge of the world

Filed under: Genetics,Norden,Scandinavia,science — Razib Khan @ 12:30 pm
Nordic “Northern Lights”

One of the most curious aspects of our species, in particular, modern humanity, is our tendency to wander, to push the limits of habitation beyond reason for rhyme. Humans have been using tools for millions of years, and Neanderthals likely engaged in symbolic cognition and were capable of speech.

But it is only within the last 50,000 years that our species has pushed itself to the far edges of Oceania, to the New World, and deep into furthest Siberia. We are a lineage haunted by wanderlust.

Dmanisi, an early human that dates to 1.8 years ago

But our adaptability applies to regions closer to our African home as well. Humans of some form have been in Europe for millions of years, moving back and forth. Neanderthals famously ranged successfully for hundreds of thousands of years, and have become the poster children of sorts for the “archaic” lineages which flourished across northern Eurasia before our ancestors arrived on the scene.

The modern humans who arrived 40,000 years ago pushed the frontier of habitation even further than Neanderthals. Though adapted to colder climes, as evident in their compact body form, Neanderthals likely occupied the liminal zone of steppe and woodland, rather than the open tundra. It was modern humanity which pushed the occupation of Europe’s north to its maximal extent, then and now.

Europe during the “Last Glacial Maximum”

Of course, as it was the Ice Age, much of Northern Europe was uninhabitable by humans. There were vast swaths of what we now call Norden, Scandinavia and Finland, which were glaciated. Only with the retreat of the ice have humans been able to venture north with an eye toward permanent settlement.

Whereas for most of Europe the history of modern humans spans 40,000 years, for Scandinavia, it ranges only over the last 10,000 years. The shadow of the glaciers is felt today on the face of the rugged landscapes, scarred and scraped by their movements. The very land itself is still warping and rising after the removal of weighty ice!

Lights in the ice

The geography of Scandinavia presents both challenges and opportunities for human habitation. Modern Stockholm is 20 degrees north in terms of latitude from New York City (1,380 miles further north along the earth’s surface). But its winter temperatures are in a similar range. Northern Europe is the most extensive high latitude region of the world with a relatively mild maritime climate. If you shifted Scandinavia to the east, it would be located in central Siberia.

As the forests grew with the improving climate, they would experience winters of near total darkness and summers of today light. And the northern lights would frame them in a manner that must have been awe-inspiring to the first humans to venture into the lands around the Baltic.

Citation: Population genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia: Investigating early postglacial migration routes and high-latitude adaptation

One of the consequences of the cool climate of Scandinavia is that it has been a fertile field for archaeological and genetic investigations. Biological remains degrade very slowly at lower temperatures. Unlike other regions of the world, there are large numbers of samples from different localities and times in the Nordic countries to create both temporal and spatial transects.

In other words, researchers have been able to track genetic changes over time and space.

One major finding that has come out of this research is that Mesolithic Scandinavian hunter-gatherers were a mix of two streams of people, one coming from the south, and another from the east.

Termed rather uncreatively “Western Hunter-Gatherers” (WHG) and “Eastern Hunter-Gatherers” (EHG), these two populations derive from expansions after the retreat of the ice from the southwest and northeast of the European continent. The WHG descend from the last wave of Paleolithic Europeans to migrate out of the Near East after the Last Glacial Maximum, while the EHG was genetically a mix of ancient Siberians and peoples from the fringe of Europe, situated on the edge of the Eurasian tundra.

Though very genetically distinct, these two populations shared cultures of adaptation to the frigid climate of northern Eurasia. The migration path of the WHG was straightforward. Move north from continental Europe, up through Jutland (the peninsula of Denmark). One might think that the EHG would migrate along the Baltic shores, but ancient DNA from Latvia indicates that the hunter-gatherers who occupied the eastern shore of the Baltic were related to the WHG. They had to have migrated via another route.

It turns out that in all likelihood the EHG journeyed across the top of Scandinavia, following the northern coast, and moving south into modern Norway.
Reconstructed house of a farmer

The mixed population that emerged, and became the “Scandinavian hunter-gatherers” (SHG), maintained a diverse array of lifestyles. Some foraged on land, while others exploited rich marine resources. The far northern latitude and well adapted local populations meant that Scandinavians took to farming relatively late, no earlier than 5,000 years ago. These farmers descended from ancient Near Eastern groups pushing west and north over thousands of years.

And, while in other regions to the south hunter-gatherers faded quickly, in Scandinavia hunter-gatherer populations seem to have continued to flourish in large numbers.

The hunter-gatherers could coexist with farmers in part because of the productivity of the marine environment, which allowed for larger sedentary populations than terrestrial foraging. As the Pitted-Ware Culture these people continued down to about 4,300 years ago when both the early farmers and hunter-gatherers were assimilated by migrating agro-pastoralists.

These people brought with them the Battle-Axe Culture. It is very likely that they spoke the languages and developed culture which we consider to be typical of the ancestors of modern Scandinavians. Genetically they are distinct from both the hunter-gatherers and the early farmers, bringing an affinity to steppe populations. Whereas the Scandinavian early farmers resembled Southern Europeans, and the WHG and EHG are distinct from all modern peoples, the genetic variation of the descendants of the Battle-Axe Culture is recognizable as within the range of contemporary people in the Nordic countries.

And yet it is likely that the legacy of the first settlers, those hunter-gathers who ventured north into an empty landscape, continues down to the present. There was mixing between early farmers and hunter-gatherers, and it is very likely that as the latest wave of migrants arrived they learned from the older populations the peculiarities and opportunities of living in the northern landscape. And sometimes it was more than learning.

There are genetic adaptations to the cold found in the hunter-gatherers which are present in modern Scandinavians!

Humanity on the edge of the world was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

June 25, 2019

Open Thread – 06/25/2019

Filed under: Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 5:28 pm

The first “Open Thread” in a month…

Tim Mackintosh-Smith ‘s Arabs: A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes is a book I recommend without reservation. Many of these types of books about Arabs tend to be focus on two periods, that of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, the 20th-century revival of Arab supra-national identity. Mackintosh-Smith’s small tome lacks these deficiencies.

In fact, it benefits from extensively discussing the history of the pre-Islamic Arabs. The author is a specialist in Arabic language and observes that clearly proto-Arabic names were listed as enemies by the Assyrians in 750 BC. This clearly refutes the misimpression by some that the Arabs burst onto history in the 7th-century out of the obscurity of the desert.

On a minor note, though Mackintosh-Smith presents the origins of Islam in the classical mainstream manner, the scaffolding around narrative makes it clear that he is familiar with the revisionist arguments (he does make reference to Patricia Crone). Though he does not come out and say anything supportive in an explicit sense of the revisionist historians, the totality of the work has made it more plausible to me that the Umayyads were not Muslims in a way we would recognize Muslims.

Islam in a very substantive sense was the invention of the mawali, and the victory of the ajam over the arab.

I am now reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World. Pretty good so far, though as with most paleo books there are the “notes from the field” passages which make it seem like something out of Field & Stream now and then.

Interesting profile in The Wall Street Journal of Ramesh Ponnuru.

While this weblog was down I posted more at Brown Pundits. While I was in grad school I really didn’t post there much at all. But about two years ago I started posting more and more, and that weblog is now almost as popular as this one. A lot of it is due to the rise of the “Indian internet”

The Browncast is doing pretty well, but it would be great if we got more reviews on Apple or Stitcher.

I phased out of being an active “producer” on Twitter right before this blog went down. I still reply here and there, “like” some tweets, and use the DM feature. But being a passive consumer suits me fine, to be honest. More and more of the stream of tweets are toxic crud anyway.

Twitter is where good faith goes to die, and the profusion of malice in intent and perception is so great that it fosters highly active and tight “circle-jerk” communities. It’s not that fun talking just to people who agree with you on everything (or at least they feign to in public), so ultimately I realized that it wasn’t worth the effort. I’ve been through middle school, and have no need to revisit it.

If you haven’t checked it out, my Pinboard is active again.

Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats—And Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans:

Perhaps because institutions of higher learning tend to be dominated by liberals, Republicans who have gone to college are not more likely to caricature their ideological adversaries than those who dropped out of high school. But among Democrats, education seems to make the problem much worse. Democrats who have a high-school degree suffer from a greater perception gap than those who don’t. Democrats who went to college harbor greater misunderstandings than those who didn’t. And those with a postgrad degree have a way more skewed view of Republicans than anybody else.

The major finding is that the less educated/informed have more reasonable perceptions of the “other party.” But the secondary finding is that the skewing effect of more education is noticeable in particular in Democrats. To be frank, the white liberal usage of terms like “inclusion” and “diversity” are straight out of 1984. A large fraction of these people are among the most conventionally intolerant and narrow-minded people you can meet, who at the same time have an image of themselves as exceedingly tolerant and open-minded. In some schools of shariah it is only permissible to interact with and develop friendships with kufars for the purposes of dawah…

Amid Racial Divisions, Mayor’s Plan to Scrap Elite School Exam Fails. I still think in the long-run these schools are going to be abolished.

Erdoğan’s party to lose rerun Istanbul election. Suggests that Erdoğan’s margins over the last 15 years were due to the bubble economy. He can hold power if he goes full authoritarian. Otherwise, he’s probably going to lose.

Genetic substructures and adaptations in Lithuanians. Not a huge surprise, but it does look like Lithuanians are the population with the greatest affinity to the Pleistocene peoples of Europe. Mostly because they have hardly any Anatolian farmer ancestry (something they share with the Finns).

When I type “Ninja” into Google Images I get images of a Twitch streamer. What?

Palladium Magazine is worth reading

The Fog of Youth: The Cornell Student Takeover, 50 Years On.

The Wild Ride at Babe.Net The Aziz Ansari controversy was just the beginning of the trouble for the website. This was a lose, lose, lose situation. The reporter didn’t benefit. The website went down. Aziz Ansari and their date didn’t come out of it well. A sad observation about the current media and cultural landscape.

A personal and population-based Egyptian genome reference.

Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal”. I doubt a Peter Singer op-ed signals a Thermidorian Reaction, but an Optimate can hope.

After Struggling to Deliver in China, Carrefour Packs Its Bags. Carrefour has been in China since 1995. This isn’t a matter of the Chinese rejecting a foreign brand, but the turn toward delivery and away from huge markets.

The genomic impact of European colonization of the Americas.

The Age of Aquarius, All Over Again!. Just relaxation of functional constraint. Without the indoctrination of organized religion people become “pagan” in a very broad sense.

Putting RFMix and ADMIXTURE to the test in a complex admixed population. Though if you are going to test 30 populations, go with the latter.

They came, they saw, and they mixed. Uralics.

Is the Impossible Burger a threat to vegetarianism? Should be titled “I don’t like the taste of meat.”

Did Big Gods Come Before or After Big Societies? Another review of the huge controversy.

Population history and genetic adaptation of the Fulani nomads: Inferences from genome-wide data and the lactase persistence trait.

The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene.

A darker shade of brown

Filed under: Culture,Skin Color — Razib Khan @ 3:49 pm
Sharon Muthu

On the individual level who you find attractive and what you find attractive is your own deal. I’m not one to go exhorting anyone to anything. To be frank I find “campaigns” to make x more attractive a bit cringe. It’s like the joke about having to explain to someone that actually you are very attractive!

That being said, it’s interesting to observe cultural patterns, differences, and trends. I do not, for example, perceive women with natural epicanthic folds to be less attractive in any deep sense. But the surgery to create folded over eyelids is a “coming of age” practice in much of Northeast Asia, especially South Korea because it is seen as more aesthetically pleasing. This is a new trend triggered by Western norms, as prior to the past century the more common Asian look with epicanthic folds was considered more beautiful.

This brings me to South Asians, and beliefs, attitudes, and opinions about skin color. Years ago I read that Indian (Tamil) American actress Sharon Muthu was lost a part where she would be playing an Indian character “because she didn’t look Indian.” The director, in this case, was a white American. He admitted she nailed the audition, but optically he didn’t think she’d be plausible as Indian to the audience.

This goes to show that the Bollywood aesthetic has come to define what “Indian” looks like even in the West! Muthu is on the darker side, but not anymore atypical than may lighter-skinned Bollywood celebs.

Sendhil Ramamurthy

I am very jaundiced about many aspects of South Asian (which means mostly Indian American really) American culture, but one thing that is striking in contrast to the culture of their parents is that there is little attention to skin color. In fact, there are multiple instances where I’ve heard people say that the parents thought someone they were dating was too dark.  This is probably a function of the fact that in an environment where all brown people of various shades are bracketed together, it’s a little ridiculous to make the sort of distinctions that are common in the Indian subcontinent.

Speaking as an outsider to brown culture (my wife is white, most of my close friends are not brown, my children are mixed, etc.) and community, so often when I see an Indian or Pakistani actor or actress they look like older versions of Zayn Malik, the half-Pakistani and half-English teen idol, or an Italian actress with a bigger nose. In general, I laugh, and a lot of American-born/raised brown people I know laugh too.

On the other hand, American South Asians are among the most privileged in the world. The people consuming Bollywood, and Tollywood and all the other woods, are the broad middle and lower classes of India, and their choices do shape what gets put on the screen.

When I was visiting Bangladesh in 2004 many of the posters of actresses I saw were notable for two things:

  • They were fairer than the average young Bangladeshi woman
  • They were plumper than the average young Bangladeshi woman

My prediction is as Indian audiences get more affluent, and self-confident in themselves, the actors and actressse will start looking more and more like better look versions of the average Indian, rather than cut-rate Jaggus and Jagginas.

June 24, 2019

The site is back…for now

Filed under: Admin — Razib Khan @ 9:09 pm

I spent some time trying to lock-down the issue with this website. It’s back online again. Apparently, it was getting hit with too many requests and it was taking down the shared host it’s on (CPU problems). I’ve installed a bunch of caching and other features (including blocking bad crawlers).

Hope we’re back in the saddle for a while.

The limits of semantics; Hindus before Hinduism

Filed under: Religion — Razib Khan @ 11:10 am

When I was a 20-year old atheist I would read books on the philosophy of religion and explore arguments for and against the existence of god(s). Though I was never naive enough to think that just if people could be exposed to arguments against the argument for design people would be atheists, I wouldn’t have rejected it out of hand.

This is not a view I hold on to in any way because I believe religion as a social-cultural phenomenon is too complex and multi-faceted to reduce to a set of philosophical propositions. The “god of philosophers” ultimately misses the point of the reason so many people believe in god, and what sustain’s religion. But because the philosophers write the histories and dominate the priestly class, they have rewritten religion in their image.

A more complex view has to be brought to bear when we talk about ideas such as the “invention of Hinduism” by the British. If one limits the term “Hindu” to its utilization to point to a self-conscious and concise confessional community unitary across South Asia and disjoint from that of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, etc., then one can assent to the proposition that the “Hindu identity” was “invented” relatively late in history.

But this is a piss-poor resolution to understanding the dynamics of human cultural evolution in South Asia.

As I have noted before, 1,000 years ago al-Biruni presented and anthropological understanding of the religion of Hindus that is totally recognizable and comprehensible to us. I say here “religion of Hindus” because he was referring here to the people of India, Hindus, rather than a religion called Hinduism. This is a shading which refines the descriptions with more precision, but if you actually read al-Beruni you notice that the term “Hinduism” is pure semantic sugar. It doesn’t add much substance, though it tightens up the style. He clearly outlines a religious system and communal identities which we would recognize today as Hindu.

For the philosophers and intellectuals, religion can be reduced down to particular parameters. My own view is that when people say a “Western view” of religion, they are actually alluding to the conception that arose out of the Calvinist framework, which strongly informed the American conception in relation to church-state interaction (and, in some ways, modern atheism is the child of the demystified Calvinist cosmology). Even within the West, this highly rational, confessional, and individualistic, understanding of religion is an artifact of the past few centuries, and not normative across all Christian traditions and societies.

When it comes to this weblog the usage of terms always needs to be framed in the context of their times. If you speak of the “Sunni-Shia” conflict of the 7th-century, you need to realize this is highly anachronistic. Sunni Islam, as we understand it, only developed organically over the centuries in reaction to the claims of the party of Ali and his scions, those who became Shia. Similarly, if one talks about “Hindus” in the context of Maurya India, one realizes that one is bracketing a host of philosophical schools and religious sensibilities which are at variance with Buddhism and Jainism. One can argue whether the term “Hindu” is more or less informative, but one should also understand that one can extract significance from the term even before its 19-century maturation.*

* I would be personally cautious about using the word “Hindu” before the Gupta period, but think that it makes sense after that, even if there was no a self-conscious Hindu religion for many centuries after. Your mileage may vary.

June 21, 2019

Open Thread – Brown Pundits

Filed under: Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 5:49 pm

Please keep the other posts on topic. Use this for talking about whatever you want to talk about.

An American twist on “joint-family” (?)

Filed under: Culture — Razib Khan @ 9:06 am

June 20, 2019

Of proteins and paleontology

Filed under: Evolution,Genetics,protein,science — Razib Khan @ 9:04 am
Ostrich egg

Ancient DNA has transformed our understanding of the biological past. The sequencing of mammoths, moa, and Neanderthal have opened up a window upon evolution which we had previously only perceived through material remains. Whereas 20 years ago there was only one human genome, today there is an excellent whole genome of a species of human we had not even known existed a generation ago.

Genetic information from the past is so useful because it fills in the gaps of the tree of life. With modern species, scientists have to “infer” the relationships based on assumptions within particular phylogenetic models. Ancient DNA allows them to fill in deeper “nodes” within this tree with a high degree of confidence.

While a skeleton has a great deal of information and allows scientists to make evolutionary inferences, DNA consists of discrete bits which reflect the whole past genealogy of an organism many generations ago.

But there is a downside to DNA: it degrades. Where fossils can be preserved for billions of years, the oldest DNA sequence dates to ~700,000 years ago. There are vast quantities of ancient DNA today in databases, but a very high proportion dates to the last 10,000 years, and an overwhelming number to higher latitude samples.

The decreasing concentration of ancient DNA

In fact, the ~1,000,000 years may be an upper bound for how far back ancient DNA is viable for sequencing analysis. The concentration beyond this point of DNA from the sample itself is just too low to extract it out of bacterial contamination. This does not even consider the reality that in tropical and moist climates the conditions are far less amenable to long-term preservation.

But are fossils the only alternative then for paleontologists? It turns out not. DNA is not the only molecule from ancient remains that is useful for scientists. There are proteins!

Proteins are the product of processes which start with DNA:

DNA is transcribed to RNA which is translated to protein

And, they are far more robust than DNA. Proteins have been extracted from ostrich eggshells in Tanzania dated to 3.8 million years ago. Note that not only does this smash the 1 million year barrier, but it is also from a hot climate where DNA degradation is such that very ancient dates are unlikely in the first place.

That being said, there are limitations to protein analysis. Only about ~1% of the human genome, the exome, is translated into protein. And that proportion of the genome is often less diverse than the other proportions. This is due to the fact that mutations in functional regions of the genome are often strong selected against, as they are more likely to “break” something.

As genetic variation is the raw material for phylogenetic analysis, this means protein sequence will be less informative than DNA sequence.

The second major issue is that protein extracted from bone, dentine, and enamel, to name a few tissues preserved in mammals, is not representative of all the proteins in the body. While DNA is the whole sequence, only a subset of DNA is expressed in particular tissues at particular times. This means that the proteins will differ across the body, and some proteins are going to vary a great deal less than others due to their importance in many species. Collagen is the most abundant protein, so it is not surprising then that the analysis of protein sequence will focus on the collagens.

Because protein offers less information, it will be less useful for generating subtle population genetic statistics than DNA. Rather, ancient protein analysis will shine in taxonomic identification of remains.

In the context of humans, this is relevant, because the hominin lineage dates to considerably earlier than 1 million years ago. The famous discovery, Lucy, dates to 3.2 million years ago.

Over the next few years, ancient protein analysis will become more refined and powerful. It is quite possible that that the “family tree” of our species before 1 million years ago will be rearranged by geneticists again, just as our more recent ancestry and relationship to Neanderthals has been revolutionized. Ancient proteins may aid in resolving who our “first ancestors” actually were….

Of proteins and paleontology was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

June 19, 2019

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 32: Tibetan Denisovans!

Filed under: Denisovans,Genetics,paleontology,science — Razib Khan @ 2:50 pm

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 32: Tibetan Denisovans!

Denisovan Mandible

This week on The Insight (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts) Razib talks to Dr. Frido Welker, a pioneer in the field of ancient protein phylogenetic analysis of human remains. We talked about the recent finding of Denisovans from the highlands of Tibet, work on which he was a researcher.

The paper, A late Middle Pleistocene Denisovan mandible from the Tibetan Plateau, uses protein analysis to find that an ancient sample from Tibet clusters with the Denisova genome. This is important because this is the first confirmed publication which reports on a Denisovan outside of the Altai cave site in Siberia. The authors did not find DNA, so they had to make recourse to protein, which is more robust than DNA.

Using a few positions they inferred that the Xiahe sample was closest to the Denisova cave sample.

Because they had a mandible, the authors confirmed again the robustness of the Denisovans (the teeth of the Denisova cave sample were inordinately large, but that was a single sample). Along with a skull cap reported at a conference in March, this brings confirmed Denisovans to three individuals across Northeast Asia. This, despite the fact that in terms of genomics the most “Denisovan” modern populations are those far to the southeast, in Oceania.

We also discussed how protein analysis will complement ancient DNA analysis. Though proteins have less informative variation than DNA, they are likely to last much, much, longer. The oldest agreed ancient proteins being from nearly 4 million years ago!

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 32: Tibetan Denisovans! was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

June 18, 2019

Urbanization in the 21st-century

Filed under: Geopolitics,Urbanization — Razib Khan @ 9:58 pm

The world turned upside down

Filed under: Culture — Razib Khan @ 12:43 am

They are told it’s the Kali Yuga, and they rejoice!
The Dharma and the Dao are needful
As they are what not to do!
Striving to virtue is sin,
Abnegation of indulgence the ultimate betrayal of self.
There is no god above to glorify,
Just a sense to glory in….

June 17, 2019

Genetic change, cultural coherency, and social structure

Filed under: History — Razib Khan @ 11:52 pm

A stupid commenter (SC) below keeps opining that the high frequency of R1a across South Asia is due to non-paternity events (NPE). I’m not quite sure SC knows what NPE is. It is, “when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is not in fact the biological father.” The hypothesis presented seems to be that outside of the Northwest of the subcontinent, the high frequency of R1a among non-Brahmin populations is a function of cuckoldry.

I think this is a stupid hypothesis for several reasons.

  1. Star phylogenies tend to extend outside of their core sociocultural group (e.g., R1b in Basques)
  2. NPE events outside of ethnicity seem rare given how endogamous South Asian jatis are.
  3. NPE in Eurasian societies seem to be 1-3%.
  4. There isn’t autosomal variation in ancestry within South Asia jatis usually. E.g., autosomally Tamil Brahmins or Chamars don’t vary much. This is in contrast with Mexican Americans or African Americans, who show a great deal of biogeographic variation in ancestry because they are a recently admixed population.

But, in the interests of making lemonade out of SC’s lemon, it’s interesting to observe other cases of disjunction between genome-wide ancestry and Y chromosomes. For example, let’s look at the Hui, Chinese-speaking Muslims.

The most likely origin of these Muslims is during the Yuan dynasty. So about 750 years ago. They were probably originally Central Asian, and so a mix of West and East Eurasian. Around 40% West Eurasian Y chromosomes from the beginning is not totally unreasonable if Islamicized Turks were a substantial proportion of the Muslims. If 5% of their total genome is West Eurasian, it’s probably reasonable to assume that 10% of their total genome derives from Muslims, if the original Muslims about half West Eurasian and half East Eurasian in ancestry.

750 years is 30 generations. My back of the envelope calculations suggests that 7.75% exogamy with Han Chinese per generation would result in a 50% West Eurasian population become a 5% West Eurasian population.  Another way to frame this is about ~90% of the ancestry of the original founding group has been replaced. But what about the Y chromosomes? Even assuming 100% West Eurasian Y chromosomes, the decrease has not been of similar magnitude.

The answer is simple: the dilution could have been mostly female-mediated. China is a patrilineal society, and Central Asian Muslims are also patrilineal. Though there are exceptions (there is a Hui branch of the Kong family due to one of the descendants marrying a Muslim woman and converting to Islam), it seems reasonable to infer most of the gene-flow into the Muslim community was through women. And, women do not have Y chromosomes, and so do not replace that lineage, though they do contribute to the total genome.

This is not an isolated case. There are populations around Lake Chad which carry ~1% Eurasian autosomal ancestry, but with Y chromosomal fractions of R1b, which is Eurasian, on the order of ~20%.

The opposite case can also occur. Because of male-biased European gene-flow to Latin America, populations such as in Argentina can have a very high fraction of indigenous mtDNA, passed from mothers to their offspring, despite the total genome being mostly European.

Which brings us back to South Asia. Though R1a is associated with “upper caste” populations, the reality is that it is widely distributed in South Asia. Including tribal groups such as the Chenchus and Bhils.

The Chenchus are an interesting case. The only groups nearby with high frequencies of R1a would be South Indian Brahmins, who are genetically very distinct. In fact, Brahmins from the four southernmost states of the peninsula are very similar in their proportions of distinct biogeographic components. And, there is not much inter-individual variation. The Chenchus, in contrast, seem to be typical ASI-shifted tribal people from South India.

In an NPE model the ~25% R1a ancestry is due the fathering of sons by Brahmin males, who were raised by their Chenchu mothers as Chenchu (and presumably raised by Chenche males as their own sons). The problem is that then ~12.5% of the ancestry of Chenchu should be Brahmin. This introduces a noticeable steppe shift, and though 12.5% is a small fraction, one should be able to detect it. Additionally, if the R1a entered the population through introgression every generation, there should be variation in ancestry among the Chenchus as a function of biogeography.

I simply don’t see this in the data for the Chenchu. What could explain their high fraction of R1a?

There are two things to consider. First, these marginalized groups often have low effective population sizes due to extreme endogamy. This means the power of drift at a single locus, such as the Y, is strong in these groups. It is not unreasonable to posit some groups, such as the Chenchu, would drift to a higher frequency.

The second dynamic is the one alluded to above: the Chenchu descend from a compound of groups, and a core paternal lineage of R1a bearers was assimilated into a larger population. I see the expansion of R1a across South Asia as greatly synchronous with the development of the ethnolinguistic landscape we see around us. Tribal groups such as the Chenchu are not primal, but part of an ethnolinguistic tapestry which crystallized in the period after the fall of the IVC and the reemergence of India into history in the 6th century BCE.

Note: Will delete dumb comments

Why the Diaspora is not as interesting to me

Filed under: Culture,Diaspora — Razib Khan @ 10:25 am

A friend of the podcast mentioned with a bit of surprise that so much of it was focused on India as opposed to the Indian Diaspora (you can substitute “South Asia(n)” into “India(n)”). When this weblog was started at the end of 2010 it was probably more Diasporic in orientation. That was the era when Sepia Mutiny was winding down, after all.

Today I’m not as interested in Diasporic topics for two reasons. First, the Diasporic identity in the USA is pretty stable and clear. Most Indian Americans are basically Americans with their own particular cultural twist or accent.  This is widely understood. In particular, culturally young Indian Americans have assimilated to the same broad identity as liberal white Americans (with some exceptions). The big questions of who and what brown Americans are going to be seem to have been answered.

The second issue is that India is a bigger deal today than it was in the 2000s. From a purely anthropological perspective, what’s going on with 1.3 billion Indians (+ 400 million other assorted South Asians) is more interesting to me than the concerns of tens of millions of Diasporic browns.

(the exception is something like an interview with an India American going through the modern arranged marriage; in contrast, telling me you only date other South Asians is not too interesting, as it’s basically what everyone else does, but brown)

June 14, 2019

Open Thread – Brown Pundits

Filed under: Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 5:48 pm

Please keep the other posts on topic. Use this for talking about whatever you want to talk about.

What The All-Father Means

Filed under: Genetics,History,R1a1a — Razib Khan @ 4:35 pm

Readers of this weblog may sometimes notice that I break out in pompous and self-important declarations of being a “scion of the All-Father.” This is basically a joke. But, it’s a joke that draws from a legitimate basis of science and mythology. The “All-Father” is another name for Odin. I’m really talking about Indra, who is probably more like Thor. And obviously, Norse paganism is only distantly related to the mythology of the Indo-Aryans. As someone more familiar with the lineaments of Northern European mythology than Indian, of course, it’s easier for me to draw on the motifs of the former to relate to the latter.

R1a distribution

The scientific component has to do with R1a. Specifically, R1a1a, defined by the M17 mutation (discovered by my boss at my day-job 20 years ago). There are two very closely related “clades,” that is, families of pedigrees, of this Y chromosomal lineage, passed from father to son. One of them defines mostly European R1a1a, Eastern Europeans, and to a lesser extent Western Europeans. Another branch is found mostly in Central and South Asia.

When I first saw this distribution around the year 2000 it left me scratching my head. Of course, I knew about the Indo-European languages. But I had always assumed that the demographic impact of the original Indo-Europeans was relatively marginal. And yet this Y chromosome was found at frequencies in the 10-50% range across vast swaths of Eurasia.

Much of the 2000s was spent on arguments as to whether R1a was indigenous to South Asia or to Central Eurasia. Ultimately these arguments were not resolvable due to limitations of the data. To calibrate dates and diversity researchers relied on microsatellites, which are useful due to their high mutation rates, but also erratic for the same reason (not only were confidence intervals wide, some of the assumptions of the model parameters were guesses).

In the early 2010s, whole-genome sequences of Y chromosomes came online. It became very clear that the most common R1a1a lineages exhibited the “star phylogeny.” Demographically, what this means is that men carrying this lineage underwent very rapid population expansion for a short period of time. So rapid that a “father” lineage would give rise to numerous “son” lineages one mutational step away

You can see in the figure that node “A” has given rise to a “star phylogeny.” A large number of individuals are one mutational step away from that genotype. A more normal phylogeny would produce a complex structured tree which accrues mutations across the various branches gradually.

In the South Asian context, a paper from 2004, Independent origins of Indian caste and tribal paternal lineages, introduced a result which prefigured what we now know:

Analyses of molecular variance also suggest that caste groups are more homogeneous for Y chromosome variation than tribal groups, since the variance among caste groups (sampled from all over India) is 3-fold less than that observed among tribal groups and 2-fold less than that observed among all Indian populations grouped together (Table 3). Moreover, if only north caste groups are considered, the variance among populations is not significantly different from zero (Table 3), indicating that spread over the Indian subcontinent although they are located up to ∼1500 km away from each other, these populations have highly homogeneous Y chromosome compositions.

The implications of the lack of structure of R1a on the Indo-Gangetic plain is always something that struck me. It suggested that the paternal lineages only recently expanded since they didn’ have time to build up distinct regional mutations. In contrast, the adivasi populations had a wider distribution of Y chromosomal haplogroups, and they exhibit a lot deeper diverged lineages.

Which brings me to the personal angle. In the spring of 2010, I did my first personal genomic test. I got my Y and mtDNA results back first. It turned out my Y was R1a1a, and my mtDNA was U2b. I was surprised by both. Eastern Bengali has the highest fraction of mtDNA macrohaplogroup M in the world. R1a1a was less surprising. But, it was very strange to have a concrete, personal, connection to this lineage which had been on my mind for a decade or so.

My funny attachment to my haplogroup is probably a function of my upbringing. Growing up as brown in the United States, I wasn’t exposed to Indian culture, nor was I well versed in the details of South Asian communalism. My family is pretty conventional in being upper-middle-class Bengali Muslims, so there is not a jati identity or anything like that I could identify with (and though my parents are Muslim, they are not extremely so, therefore religious identity was a background and not foreground variable). When I looked at my overall genome in 2010 it was clear I didn’t have the “runs of homozygosity” that characterize many people from South Asian backgrounds who come from endogamous communities. I know some of my ancestors were Kayasthas, and my father has some Brahmin ancestry, but the most distinctive thing about me in hindsight is I’m a typical east Bengali with more than a usual dollop of East Asian ancestry (my family is from Comilla).

My Y chromosomal haplogroup, in contrast, is something clear, distinct, and precise. It is an anchor, something which I use to channel my preoccupations and concerns. I don’t have Omar’s Gujar tribal ancestry, or Zach’s Muhajir/Persian origins. I’m just a brown American whose parents did not instill him a patriotism about the “motherland” (Bangladesh), because they themselves didn’t even live a decade in that nation. Though there is a spectrum, it is clear that many South Asian Americans are less “coconut” than I am, and are attuned to fine differences of status, origin, and background. Growing up around only white people my identity was racialized, not ethnicized.

I have never felt superior or inferior to any community or ethnicity of South Asian because I never belonged to any community, have weak ethnic identity, and don’t believe in any religion. The religious prejudices I do have are probably Anglo-Protestant ones against Catholicism, because of the implicit assumptions and background facts of America’s Whig culture.

What R1a1a symbolizes to me is that I have a concrete connection to a semi-historical phenomenon between the end of prehistory and before the written word, which we have not grasped or understood very well. Though it is true R1a1a is found at higher concentrations in “upper castes,” as well as in the north and west of the subcontinent, and among Indo-Aryan speakers, the reality is it is found in almost every community in South Asia (the main exception being among Tibeto-Burmans and Munda). There are many communities, such as Chenchus, which have very little steppe ancestry but retain a substantial proportion of R1a1a.

For obvious reasons this haplogroup is associated with Indo-Aryans (the earliest find of R1a1a-Z93 is from the Bronze Age Volga Srubna culture), but its reach is far beyond current areas of Indo-Aryan speech. Its ubiquity is a testament to a broader South Asia cultural matrix that emerged in the centuries after 1500 BC, from north to south.

This is of course not a moral judgment. The expansion of this paternal lineage at the expense of others likely occurred through a process of aggression and social exclusion. This is nothing to be proud of…or ashamed of. It’s just a description.

June 12, 2019

The genetics of obesity is about the environment

Filed under: Health,Obesity — Razib Khan @ 11:06 pm
An American classic

In the 1960s the average American man weighed 166 pounds. Today, the average American man weighs 195 pounds. In the 1960s the average American woman weighed 140 pounds. Today, the average American woman weighs 166 pounds. According to the CDC, nearly 40% of Americans age 20 or above are obese. Using the same criteria, less than 5% of Japanese are obese.

Genetically, we know that obesity is more than 50% heritable. That is, within populations, more than 50 percent of the variation of weight is due to the variation of genes. Yet change over a few generations in the distribution of weight implies that genes are not producing a simple outcome here.

Very few genes can explain much of the variation in weight, though on the whole many many genes can explain much of it aggregate.

The FTO gene is one of the major loci implicated in obesity. Those who carry two copies of the “risk” allele are 1.67 times more likely to be obese and are on average 7 pounds heavier than those who carry no copies of the risk allele (those who carry a single copy are 3 pounds heavier, on average). This is not trivial, but neither is it that big of a deal.

Rather, obesity is a highly polygenic trait when it comes to how genetics impacts weight.

There are innumerable genetic factors, some of them implicated in metabolism, while others have to do with satiety and impulse control. This also explains why obesity has varied so much across generations (in the United States) and today varies so much between nations: genes only express themselves in a particular environmental context. There is a “norm of reaction” in a particular environment so that the same genetic profile can result in very different outcomes.

A “Philadelphia Cheesesteak”

Many health professionals argue that the American diet and lifestyle today is very “obesogenic.” Classic 20th-century American foods are often rich in fats, sugars, and processed carbohydrates, which deliver huge servings of calories in massive doses. Calorie density is a feature, not a bug. Extremely palatable processed foods were the end result of an extremely productive agricultural and industrial system.

Meanwhile, whereas 40% of Americans were farmers in 1900, only 2% were in the year 2000. Instead of work that requires physical activity, more and more Americans are office dwellers.

In a world where everyone walked everywhere, daily life was consumed by physical activity, and famine was a constant threat. Latent genetic variation that might result in differences in susceptibility to obesity would not be particularly relevant.

Americans today live in a world where very little of their income goes to food, and calories are in surplus.

Modern agriculture has escaped the “Malthusian trap”

Genetic risk factors in obesity become noticeable in an environment where obesity is common. Historically, the modern period has been an aberration, as humans have escaped the “Malthusian trap,” growing more and more food, while family sizes have decreased. In other words, only in the past century or so in much of the world has the question of the “heritability” of obesity become something that could have been a question in the first place.

Obesity is correlated with many other issues that impact both mortality and morbidity. The past several decades of caloric plentitude and a shift away from manual labor have been beneficial on the whole to human life expectancy and well-being. Famine has become rarer and rarer. But life is often about tradeoffs and as the threat of malnutrition has faded, so the downsides of excess calories have come to the fore.

In this obesogenic environment, genetics can help predict those who are at particular risk for obesity. But genetics is not a solution in any way for the rise of obesity in developed societies, because that rise is due to conditions of the environment.

The genetics of obesity is about the environment was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 31: Obesity & Genetic Prediction

Filed under: cardiology,Genetics,Health,Obesity — Razib Khan @ 3:13 pm

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 31: Obesity & Genetic Prediction

This week on The Insight (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts) Razib talks to Dr. Amit Khera, a cardiologist, and geneticist. We talk about the relationship of genetics to obesity, and the advance of polygenic risk prediction models.

About 30% of Americans are obese, which is defined by a body-mass-index above 30. A further 30% are overweight. Obesity is strongly correlated with a variety of diseases, such as arteriosclerosis and late-onset diabetes. It is also highly heritable, meaning that most of the variation in the American population in the trait is due to variation in the genes. This does not mean that it is a deterministic trait, where certain genes guarantee a particular outcome.

Rather, obesity is the outcome of a host of causes, with the genetic impact being due to many loci.

Only a few genes, such as FTO, actually have a major effect. That means that there are no “fat genes” for most individuals. Rather, there is a wide range of risk factors which lead to obesity. A new paper, with the lead author being Dr. Khera, aims to predict individuals at particularly high risk, Polygenic Prediction of Weight and Obesity Trajectories from Birth to Adulthood.

Though the predictions are modest in consequence for most people, they are highly informative at the extremes. Individuals who are tagged as at high risk for obesity are many times more likely to actually be very obese.

That being said, there is a fair amount of work that polygenic risk scores are highly sensitive to other variables. Though obesity is very heritable, obviously environmental context matters. Americans as a whole have gotten much more obese over the past 50 years despite no change in the underlying genetics.

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 31: Obesity & Genetic Prediction was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

June 11, 2019

Between Marx and the mullah

Filed under: History — Razib Khan @ 12:03 am

There is a lot of talk on this weblog about deaths in premodern conflicts. I want to clarify a few points, at least from my perspective.

Both ancient DNA and conventional history and archaeology indicate that massive population turnovers occurred in the past. If you read a book like Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy, you note that there is plenty of record of massacres and killings in targeted fashion during the Mongol expansion. The chaos and demographic collapse induced by the Mongols have been implicated in reforestation across vast swaths of Central Eurasia (which may then have produced climate change!).

We can also look to the deep past, and the more recent past. Latin America is characterized by incredible admixture between people of disparate ancestries. This is due in large part to 1) demographic collapse on the part of native peoples 2) migration of settlers from Iberia 3) transportation of slaves from Africa.

The evidence from Europe and South Asia is also strongly suggestive of massive population replacements. Depending on your model parameters about 50-75% of the ancestors of modern Northern Europeans who were alive 5,000 years ago had descendants who were intrusive to Northern Europe. Another way to say this is that 50-75% of the ancestors of modern Danes did not live in Denmark or nearby regions 5,000 years ago. A similar number for South Asia seems to be in the 10-30% range (again, depends on your model parameters).

This elicits the question: was there genocide?

The evidence from Latin America is clear. Though there was targeted genocide on the part of the Iberian conquerors, on the whole, the deaths were mostly due to the introduction of Eurasian diseases that resulted in a cascade of consequences which resulted in famine (the Black Legend is propaganda which has influenced our modern perceptions). When a human population lives on the Malthusian margin, small perturbations can result in death due to starvation. In the case of Latin America, it is known that incapacitation of a large enough proportion of prime-age adults due to illness resulted in famine, as crops were not planted or harvested in quantities necessary to sustain villages.

In other words, population collapse was a function of reduction in labor inputs into agriculture.

And, the reality is that the Iberian conquerors, who were often younger sons of aristocratic lineages, were not inclined to engage in mass-slaughter due to the reality of their aspiration of becoming rentiers. The importation of African slaves was to a great extent a direct consequence of shortages of exploitable labor (along with the humanitarian concerns of enslaving natives). Contrast this to the situation in the Phillippines or India, where Asian peoples provided resources to support leisure-seeking European elites.

A second fact is that premodern states were not capable of the sort of coordinated genocide that has been seen in the 20th-century. They lacked the weaponry, information technology, and organizational capacity to be particularly efficient. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the coordinated genocides against Christian groups in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman realm occurred in the modern period (Armenians and Assyrians). The older Ottoman state was neither efficient enough nor did it have the means, to engage in total exterminationism (I also believe that 19th-century European-style nationalism probably made exterminationist feelings more ‘justified’ as well).

Probably the best premodern instance of ethnic cleansing we have on record is the Spanish expulsion of the Moriscos, which occurred on the basis of presumed blood lineage, not belief (e.g., many sincere Christian Moriscos were expelled as well!). But, that effort was incomplete and patchy, effective in some areas, totally ineffective in others, and haphazard in the criteria utilized (e.g., many people with Morisco ancestry were not expelled, while families which had been sincere Christians for generations were expelled).

Which brings me back to the earlier cases. What happened in Europe and India to induce population change?

There are several things going on in my opinion. First, not all late Neolithic/early Bronze Age societies had developed an ideology of elite exploitation to the level that we’d take for granted in the modern world. By this, I mean that the leaders of these agro-pastoralist societies may not have viewed farmers of different ethnicities as potential subjects, and so wealth. In conflicts between hunter-gatherer populations often warfare results in very high mortality rates, with young children and young women of the losers assimilated into the winners. There was no ideology of group assimilation for young men into an alien population, and in societies without specialized professions and economic systems, these men might not be seen as valuable in any sense except as consumption slaves (servants for powerful people, not economic producers).

In other words, conflicts between primitive societies can be thought of as “animal conflicts,” where two groups fight over resources and don’t view the losers of the other group as resources. In contrast, societies over the past few thousand years have tended to see the defeat of the enemy as a potential for elites to accrue new subjects from which they can extract rents. This was one of the arguments made to Genghis Khan by one of his Khitai advisors as to why he should not clear the land of northern China of people so as to create pastures for horses and sheep. People were more valuable than horses and sheep. He would be richer with more people.

Of course, these are people with spears (and later swords). I don’t think that most of the demographic collapse was due to direct killing. Rather, people living on the Malthusian margin, especially the sort of late Neolithic farming that was likely marginal in Northern Europe, were likely subject to the same famine dynamics as occurred in the New World. The IVC zone in South Asia was clearly more advanced, but it too many have been relatively fragile in comparison to the agricultural regimes of later South Asian societies.

The final issue is looping back to Muslims. Did they commit genocide? Did they exterminate the local populations? Probably. But, 95-99% of the ancestry of South Asian Muslims is the same as that of South Asian Hindus of the same region. Unlike the incursion of Indo-Aryans, the arrival of Muslims, mostly Turks, Afghans, and Persians did not have a major demographic perturbation in a direct sense (indirectly, technology and organizational skills introduced by Muslim elites may have resulted in disparate demographic growth of different regions in South Asia; e.g., Eaton’s argument for the expansion into eastern Bengal).

Additionally, Islam as a dominant ideology developed during the high-tide of rent-seeking elites. Though Muhammad’s status as a merchant meant that the religion was never constitutively anti-mercantile, conquest elites invariably aimed to extract wealth out of conquered populations. Arguably, the development of Islam is a direct consequence of how lightly Christianized Arab conquest elites developing an ideology which justified their extraction of rents (“protection taxes”) from conquered populations,  as well as maintaining their separateness and distinctness.

In the Indian context, many will point out that Islamic chroniclers note the despoilation and slaughter upon the local population. I would suggest that one be cautious about the propagandistic nature of ancient conflict and war (this begins with the Battle of Kadesh). Ancient chroniclers seem to have exaggerated numbers and effectiveness routinely. At least in the early modern period, most casualties due to battlefield injuries were the consequence of infection, not immediate trauma. Similarly, I suspect that the depopulation of an invaded region was more likely a consequence of the disruption of local social fabrics more than direct killing with arrows, swords, and spears (killing people expends a lot of energy and is risky).

Because of the nature of this blog, of course, this post ends with the arrival of Muslims to India. The stupid and the disingenuous (or a mix of both) seem to fix on two extreme positions:

  1. Muslims arrived and ushered in an orgy of slaughter driven primarily by the motive of oppressing the kuffar
  2.  Turks arrived in India, and like earlier invaders aimed to extract resources and dominate the location population

These caricatures serve ideologies but don’t describe reality. Both materialist and non-materialist motives need to be considered. The chroniclers of the arrival of self-conscious Muslim military forces to South Asia clearly wished to present it as an ideological and religious act. These were ghazis, just as far to the west, the Ottomans began as ghazis. But it is also impossible not to notice the family resemblance of Muslim Turks moving into South Asia in the centuries after 1000 A.D. with the invasions and conquest of China by Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic peoples in the centuries after 1000 A.D.

Not surprisingly, the Khitai, Jurchen, and Mongols, all made some ideological claims for their acts of aggression of conquest, often post facto and tenuously. The Khitai and Jurchen integrated themselves into the Han Chinese worldview and presented themselves more worthy stewards of the Mandate of Heaven than the Song rulers of China. The Mongols also did this, though perhaps even more foregrounded was their own peculiar ideology than their sky god had given the whole world to them to subjugate (the Mongol Yuan dynasty also gave special consideration to Tibetan Buddhism, which alienated their Han subjects).

But of course, we would notice that the major consequence of the Mongol Yuan dynasty was the transfer of resources from Han Chinese elites to arriviste Mongol elites. The overthrow of the Yuan resulted in the expulsion of the killing of many of these hated Mongol landlords. Ideological rationales were given, but the memories of Han elite dispossession were fresh.

And yet despite the fig-leaf that ideology provides, differences may result from such distinctions. The Khitai and the Mongols were more punctilious is differentiating themselves from their Han subjects than the Jurchen. They maintained their separateness due to their reduced respect and veneration of Confucian norms. And, notably, the philo-Sinic Jurchen were assimilated into the Han to a far greater extent than the Khitai and the Mongols.

Similarly, in South Asia, the ideological distinctions between the rentier class of Turks and West Asian Muslims, and native Indians was sufficient for the absorptive process to halt. Synthesis occurred. But amalgamation did not proceed to completion. In David Cannadine’s Ornamentalism the author argues that the religious difference was also the key reason that the Indian elite, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu, did not intermarry with the British gentry.

The various arcs of history cannot be easily defined by grade-school level Marxism, or internet Hindu level psychoanalysis. In all regions that self-conscious Muslim conquest elites established themselves, their sense of distinctness, superiority, and God-given right to rule are clear. But, all these groups, whether it be the slaving regimes of Arabs in East Africa, the Ottomans in the Balkans, and yes, Muslims in South Asia, exhibited a strong orientation toward pragmatic exploitation of the riches of the regions which they conquered.

Addendum: I’m going to delete stupid comments. This means if you leave a 2,000-word comment that’s stupid, it will be for naught.

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