Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Indian blogosphere and the US election

I must confess that I am pretty much surprised at the amount of bandwidth that has been consumed by the US election on the Indian blogosphere. Perhaps there are some reasons: many Indian people have lived in the US, have relatives there, read the English press, regale the stories on the idiocies of Palin, the foibles of McCain, the charm of Obama. But I still cannot understand the intensity of opinion and the singular preoccupation of an election circus in a far-away land. Much has been said about Obama's middle name --- does the American voter think of this before he or she casts her vote, is the American voter a bigot, the list is endless. [I wonder how much bandwidth was consumed in the American blogosphere on the Pratibha Patil vs. Bhairon Singh Shekawat election or the Ansari vs. Heptullah election! ] My humble submission is simply: who cares?! Why should anyone care who is elected President of the US. Does in make any difference to the average African-American if an African-American is elected President?! Will the streets of Washington D. C. be safer? Will there be fewer attacks on Afghan civilians by US armed forces? Will fewer people lose jobs?! On the issue of the possible bigotry of the Republican camp: who cares? Why not Indian people think about bigotry in India? Could it be that the Indian blogosphere is dominated by upper-caste types who are themselves not really victims of the endemic and widespread bigotry of our society and cannot relate to it, but can instead relate to purported bigotry against those of `colour' in the US? Such is the nature of confusion in my unsophisticated mind...


gaddeswarup said...

I have been wondering about it too. But there may be few other reasons as well.
As Roubini said, when US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. What happens in US affects all and the current contest may be a choice between disaster and some semblance of normalcy. Having said that, I actually wanted Bush to win last time since I thought that it would bring out the problems with American type capitalism more clearly.
Secondly, Indian problems seem more intractable. This is not to say that there is no progress but any discussion seems to bring out very emotional responses. I have been following the news about religious conversions in Telugu blogs. Many are against conversions but do not talk about the problems of the less privileged groups. I guess that many of these bloggers are from dominant castes.
Possibly, the same may be true with academics too. Moreover, among academics the orientation in terms of research, methodology, prestige in publications is towards the west, though I think that good papers published by C.R. Rao, Andre Weil and others in Indian journals are still referred to. Since most papers are not at that level, other criteria seem to count. My impression is that much of the resarch is oriented towards the enhancement of the status of the researcher than to connections with India. Honeybee of Anil Gupta or Arvindguptatoys are rarely mentioned but much minor research from western universities publicity departments seem to get fair attention. Same with economic blogs like MR.
May be it is just that western media are more dominant and it is easy to go along with the dominant sources. On the topics like agriculture, sociological topics which I try to follow, I still find that most of the articles which meet some standards of rigor come from Amercan Universities or west, may be because of my western type of training. There are some excellent Indian sources like EPW but if you refer to them, you are immediately labelled.
I have been following these matters only for 2-3 years. I may be very wrong.

Anant said...

Dear Swarup,

Thanks a lot for the comment. There are many things of importance that you mention. Perhaps you may wish to expound on these in independent posts on your blog.



gaddeswarup said...

India is too vast and complex. One can make any statement and support by examples and can do the same for the exact opposite statement. Some general statements about religion, caste etc. can be made, I think. For many other statements, one needs some data and creful study. Long go Bernard Cohn (in 'An Anthropologist among Historians') made some suggestions about the kind of studies that can be done. For example, if one wants to study female infanticide, his suggestion is to look at a particular group, look at the current number, practice, beliefs and try to see where they come from (instead of going too long in to the past). In a particular community, he found that the tradition is to marry of daughters with dowry to those of higher status. This was ecnomically ruinous to the families resulting in the practice. Starting with that sort of local research,
perhaps one can study some problems. Similarly studies about farming practices in different regions, of small farmers and big farmers, market net works, different technologies can be made. I think, for problems where one can expect some reasonable answers, one has to study carefully and preferably should spend lots of time there. Otherwise, they tend to be just opinions though some seem to believe that they know the ground realities because of their Indianness and abstract thought. I am still learning in a very haphazard way. May be in a few years' time, I will have more concrete opinions.

Anonymous said...

"As Roubini said, when US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold." Wrong. The corrected statement is: "When the USA catches a cold, the rest of the world has to pretend to sneeze."

ggop said...

Great post. I wondered myself why most of the bloggers based in India posted more links to the New York Times than local articles.

I attributed it to catering to international readership? Maybe most of their hits come from overseas?

kuffir said...


'But I still cannot understand the intensity of opinion and the singular preoccupation of an election circus in a far-away land.'

succinctly put. i've spent all my life in india (forty odd years) and i still hesitate to venture strong opinions on politicians from even neighbouring states because i feel do not have access to as much information as such an exercise would need- and i've been actively following indian politics since my schooldays, from the time of the emergency. i can only admire the expertise of many bloggers who can speak with such authority on american politicians after living there for 1-10 years. i hope some of them would read your post..because the stuff some of them turn out is getting on one's nerves.

swarup garu,

didn't i notice more than a couple of posts on the same subject on your blog? :) but you still are out there, just an ocean away from the u.s.

Anant said...

Dear Swarup, Anonymous, ggop, kuffir,

Thank you all for your kind posts. I am happy to know that I am not alone in my general discomfiture with the US obsessions.

Best regards, Anant

gaddeswarup said...

One simple answer is that my pension is already down and is expected to go down further and the next US president may make a difference to the stability of the financial markets. The effects on India may be less and depend on the sector.

kuffir said...

swarup garu,

'stability in the financial markets'- would that be the next american president's goal? stability would mean the american banks/financial institutions would lend more conservatively, and therefore less to corporate and retail borrowers. which in turn would curb production and consumption of goods and services. and result in less jobs. which would further feed recession and drive the financial markets further down.

whatever the cause of the recession, but a recovery would mostly depend on the real economy- if the american businesses manage to lower their costs of producing goods they would be able to revive consumption (which would improve revenues, profits and the financial markets). but lowering of costs would mostly depend on how much they outsource their production to developing economies across the world. so your pension fund going up again would mostly depend on ho w fast, and comprehensively, countries like india embrace globalization. which also means you have to depend less on the next american president.

Rahul Basu said...

I am surprised that so much verbiage is needed (9 comments) to (not) state what is obvious. Much as we may think that we are rising and shining, who the US President is matters crucially to the whole world whereas who the Indian President is largely irrelevant even to Indians. The US President can be the cause for much stability or otherwise (mostly the latter nowadays) in the world, politically, militarily, financially. A trigger happy gung ho cowboy President can create havoc that has repercussions everywhere including India (wonder if one can think of an example though ;) ) . I seriously doubt what P Patil does or says has much effect anywhere, n'est-ce pas?


Anant said...

Oh learned mastah! Thanks for your first comment in a long time on this humble blog. Yes, it does matter who the US President is. My `critique' if I may use that phony word, was mainly about the interest in the electoral process in that far-away land (which I described as a circus) among Desi bloggers. Yes, the American voter must be interested and it is he or she who must determine the outcome. I hope that this thread in my post was visible.

Your humble student.