The thread about Asian old wives’ tales got me wondering.

Pratically everybody’s posts told about China, Japan, Korea. A couple odd posts mentioned Vietnam and the Philippines.

Only one post mentioned India (mine). So I started wondering:

What makes China/Japan/Korea loom so large in the American mind and India so relatively obscure? We have istara, Collounsbury, and Tamerlane to fill us in on Middle ;j East issues (I’m no slouch in that department myself, but that’s beside the point). We have no shortage of Dopers like Osakadave, Astroboy14, China Guy, and kunilou that are founts of knowledge on East Asia, especially China, Japan, and Korea.

But the discussion of India on this board is paltry by comparison. We used to have pepperlandgirl to tell us about Pakistan (where have you gone, pepperlandgirl? I miss seeing your posts). There are a few Dopers who tell of India, xash comes to mind, but frankly I’m astonished that a land as huge, populous, and culturally significant as India gets so little play in a board with so many well-informed folks.

Especially since there are vast numbers of Indians dispersed through the Western world (I’m married to one.) The British Dopers you would think have more daily contact with Indian culture but I just don’t get why when we discuss Asian topics India is mostly ignored.

Well, for one thing, from an american point of view, the Indian sub-continent is not “Asia”. At least that’s my feeling. When a person is referred to as “Asian” I do not automatically think it could be someone from Pakistan. Semantics.

Commonwealth countries tend to have a different perception of the words asian and oriental as well. Whereas in the US they are interchangeable (albiet oriental has PC overtones these days).

Gross simplification above, but there ya go.

So… Americans don’t think India is “Asian.” I know that already. To the American mind, Asian or Oriental is limited to chopstick-land.

So what do Americans think India is?

I fear the answer is a big blank void in the American brain where India ought to be. If not for Apu on The Simpsons, would anyone even think of India at all?

I can’t speak for most Americans, but when I hear the term Asian, I do automatically think of what used to be known as “Oriental”. I suspect that most people here do the same.

When referring to something having to do with India, people usually specify Indian. Even though I know that they are both in Asia, I don’t assume a commonality of culture like I may, incorrectly no doubt, between the nations now referred to as Asian.

It’s also interesting that whenever we refer to Asians, we always forget about Central Asians such as the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Uyghurs.

I think brujo is right. I don’t know why. I try not to use the term “Asian” for this reason, it’s misleading in a way. And nobody seems to know what to call a person from the subcontinent.

When I hear Asian, I tend to think in terms of the ones I know. I’m Vietnamese and I have friends who are Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, and Indian.

It seems that most Americans think of India as not a part of Asia because we learned it as its own subcontinent. An Indian comes from that subcontinent, and an Asian comes from Asia… It’s a lame reason, but that’s how I thought of it for a long time, simply based on what I learned in school.

That’s a good point, lilbtagna. I’m three-quarters Indian (1/4 Spanish), and when Asia is mentioned, my parents automatically include the Indian subcontinent. But I intinctively think “Asia-Pacific”, perhaps because I’ve lived here so long.


You guys do know, don’t you, that when the Brits say “Asian” the first thing that comes to their mind is India & Pakistan?

There’s a local Pakistani store here in Virginia that calls itself “Asian Halal Grocery.” They in their turn seem unaware of what Asian means to Americans.

Let alone the fact that to the ancient Greeks, Asian meant what we now call the Middle East, basically Syria and Turkey. The root of the name Asia may go back to an Akkadian word for the rising of the sun. Which is the meaning of Anatolia, also. Sun rising. The name Europe originated as a Semitic root ‘rb referring to the setting sun (compare Hebrew ‘ereb ‘evening’, Arabic gharb ‘sunset/West’).

Apart from shifting definitions of which countries are considered “Asian,” why is India just plain ignored around here compared to East Asia? Maybe because Americans go to get jobs in Japan, China, and Korea, and then they get Dope accounts and post here, while getting a job in India has never occurred to them.

When I say India, I’m thinking of the whole historical range of India, which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh. The post-1947 truncated republic known as India actually calls itself Bharat in Hindi. Previously, the more familiar name for India was Hindustan, which took in the whole subcontinent. So when I think of India, I’m thinking of historical Hindustan.

::Stands up to be counted::

I spent a little over a year in Europe, studying and working, so I think I got a pretty decent perspective of how the term Asian is used there. In England, as Jomo Mojo rightly pointed out, Asian does usually imply Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. It got me wondering what term what used for the other Asian nationalities.
Incidentally, during my short stay in England, I was told on several occasions that most ‘Indian food’ restaurants are actually run mainly by Bangladeshis and Pakistanis!! Admittedly for the most the food is essentially the same in all three countries, but I wonder yet why it isn’t called Pakistani food or Bangladeshi food!

On the mainland though, it was the other way around, i.e. rather similar to the US perception; Asian = Oriental. India seemed to have it’s own separate identity (if you can call it that) with the Europeans. Interestingly, in Germany where I spent of my time in Europe, restaurants serving east Asian cuisine more often rather than not had the word ‘Asiatische’ prefixed to their names - it didn’t matter whether it was Vietnamese, or Thai or Korean cuisine they were serving up! OTOH, restaurants serving Indian food usually had names like ‘Taj Mahal’, or ‘Gateway of India’ and so on. I’m told it’s the same in the other west-european nations too.
My new job doesn’t allow me much time to get online, much to my dislike, but I’m going to keep an eye on this thread - how about I hijack this thread and rename it “Ask the Indian”. I’ll get xash to post here as well (he has a lot more time that I do)… Or maybe I’ll just start a new thread…

Oh yeah, gouda, I didn’t mean to overlook you, but my overtaxed brain failed to connect you with India, because I thought of you as a Dutch cheese. All coated in a nice shiny jacket of red wax.

Interesting question, I’m writing a paper on this very topic for one of my classes. There’s no real consensus on why Indian immigrants and Indian-Americans are “invisible” to mainstream American society. (Note: I’m using the term “Indian” for simplicity’s sake, please assume inclusion of Pakistanis, Bengladeshis, Nepalis, etc.)

Suggestions include: 1) Indians are relatively recent immigrants (legislation only permitted their legal immigration after 1965) and still haven’t "registered’ on the collective American radar the way that the Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanic populations have. 2) Until recently, most Indian immigrants were middle-class or higher, and therefore assimilated more easily into American society and became “invisible”; that is, Indians are inoffensive immigrants so the mainstream racial power structure ignores them. 3) Indians, like other Asian immigrant groups, have not generally been politically active (for many reasons), and thus have not attracted a lot of political attention or controversy.

Just a couple of points, there are more but I’m too lazy now. Maybe I will post more later. :slight_smile:

P.S. Publicblast’s dad is Indian.

I’m Indian, too. In Britain, Indian and Pakistani people are immediately brought to mind with the word “Asian.” I hadn’t thought about its being different in America.

There are a lot of Indian people living in Britain - that is, a large proportion - but is it the same in the USA?

It’s certainly a growing portion based on my personal experience, Loneraven. I live in an extremely white area, but you’re seeing more Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/etc. people here. Which, to some, is not entirely welcome right now since many of the people in question are Muslim (and this is downstate NY).

Well, I point of fact was interested in India before I was interested in the Middle East. After all, Timur did sack Delhi - How could I neglect India ;)?

It’s just the MENA topics come up a lot more, what with the current American involvement and the sudden interest in a topic that most previously neglected. I just haven’t had much call yet to discuss, say, the evolution of the Maratha state in the first half of the 17th century :).

But as a matter of fact, I just picked up a used volume on Ideologies of the Raj ( by Thomas Metcalf ) a week or so ago. Haven’t really gotten around to it yet, though.

  • Tamerlane

There is “Asian” programming on the BBC that caters pretty much exclusively to South Asia. I must say, when I came back from the Far East, I was rather bemused by this.

East Asians (Koreans, Japanese, Chinese) and Southeast Asians (Vietnamese, Laoatians, Cambodians) make up a much larger percentage of the immigrant population in America than Indians and Pakistanis, while the reverse may well be true in Britain.

Also, America has come into conflict with East Asia far more frequently than South Asia. A high school history textbook in America will discuss wars with Japan, Korea, China, and Vietnam, the ‘Red Menace’ of China, and the 80’s trade wars with Japan, but I don’t remember ever learning anything about India when I was in high school, and I rarely heard it mentioned on the news.

Racial aspect as well. I know, I know, race is a construct, no biological difference, but Asians look, well Asian. Indians look Indian.

Some time after I joined the boards, I was inspired by endless Dopefest threads to start a thread asking about Dopers resident in India, with the intention of eventually planning a Dopefest here.

By the time the thread died, IIRC, there were about 4 resident dopers, including xash and me, who wrote in - all living in and around Bombay. A few more Indians living in the US and UK wrote in too, but in total there weren’t more than a dozen Indian (or of Indian origin) Dopers. Rightly said, Jomo Mojo - astonishing.

No generic term is applied to other Asian nationalities, they would just be referred to by country of origin rather than region.

That’s true, but since the restauranteurs picked the descriptions themselves I suppose they’d be the best people to ask.