Dr. Iona Italia’s name often perplexes the public, but it’s entirely explicable considering her background. Her late father was from the Parsi community of the Indian subcontinent. Descendants of Persians who continued to adhere to the Zoroastrian religion of their ancestors, the Parsis migrated to northwestern India about 1,000 years ago. Remaining predominantly endogamous, they nevertheless developed a synthetic culture, adopting the Gujarati language, Indian dress, as well as some very idiosyncratic surnames, including Italiya. As far as her first name, Iona is very common in Scotland, her mother’s homeland.
Though raised in Karachi, Pakistan, as a child, Italia was orphaned at ten and grew up in Britain, under the supervision of her half-sister (on her mother’s side), who was nearly twenty years older. Razib and Italia discuss the complexities of her personal history and racial identity in the context of an essay posted at her Substack, The Skin I'm In. Her story, that of a mixed-race person who “presents as white” and grew up detached from her subcontinental heritage, is especially interesting in light of the new identitarian regime that has arisen on the political Left in the last few years. Razib also asks Italia about the possible future of the more old-fashioned liberalism she espouses forthrightly on her podcast, Two for Tea, as well as what distinguishes the magazine she edits, Areo, from similar publications.