Fatima Bhutto at the Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
7:00pm — 8:00pm
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
Many Americans have absorbed the idea that our popular culture is also the world’s popular culture: that from Buenos Aires to Jakarta to Moscow, people are drinking Coke, watching Marvel movies, listening to Beyoncé, and wearing Nike sneakers. In New Kings of the World, Fatima Bhutto brings the news that this standard view is badly out of date. In popular culture, as in politics, we now live in a multipolar world. The United States is no longer the acknowledged leader; the global soft power that popular culture embodies emanates from places like Mumbai, Istanbul, and Seoul, not just Hollywood.
Bhutto, a tireless reporter and a vivid writer, has traveled widely and gotten intimate access to some of the leading figures in the new global popular culture—most notably, the world’s number-one star, the usually reclusive Indian Muslim actor-singer-dancer Shah Rukh Khan. She visits both producers of pop culture—Bollywood films, K-Pop music, and dizi, the Turkish television dramas—and its consumers. Lima, Peru, with a negligible ethnically Indian population, is a hotbed of Shah Rukh Khan fans.
It isn’t just globalization, as a broad concept, that has generated the radical changes in popular culture. The new popular culture meets a strong need that American popular culture has ignored for years. All over the world, hundreds of millions of people are moving from a traditional village life, where extended family and religion were paramount, to megacities where the culture is jarringly different. Hollywood just doesn’t address this vast, overwhelming experience. Bollywood does. The new global popular culture is a benign version of the challenge on multiple fronts—economic, political, military, diplomatic—to the ideas and norms That the West has tried to impose on the rest of the world. Bhutto’s book is an important dispatch from a new order that is taking form before our eyes.
Fatima Bhutto will be joined in conversation by author Alexander Chee.
About the panelists:
Fatima Bhutto was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and grew up between Syria and Pakistan. She is the author of five previous books of fiction and nonfiction. Her debut novel, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, was long listed for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction and the memoir about her father’s life and assassination, Songs of Blood and Sword, was published to acclaim. Her most recent book is The Runaways, a novel. She graduated from Barnard with a degree in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and has a masters in South Asian Government and politics from SOAS. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @fbhutto.
Cyrus Habib was elected Lieutenant Governor of Washington state in November 2016 at the age of 35. He had previously been elected to the State House of Representatives in 2012 and the State Senate in 2014, where he was Democratic Whip and a member of the Democratic leadership team. As Lt. Governor, he is President of the State Senate, serves as Acting Governor whenever Governor Inslee leaves the state, and oversees an agency whose key issues include economic development, trade, and higher education. Since early 2019, he has served as co-chair of the Democratic Lieutenant Governor’s Association. A three-time cancer survivor, Lt. Governor Habib has been fully blind since age eight. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from Iran before he was born, and he is the first and only Iranian-American to hold statewide elected office in the United States. He is a graduate of Columbia University, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School, where he was Editor of the Yale Law Journal. Lt. Governor Habib practiced law at Perkins Coie, and served as Distinguished Lawmaker in Residence at Seattle University Law School. He is a Truman Scholar, a Soros Fellow, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Follow him on Twitter at @cyrushabib.
Many Americans have absorbed the idea that our popular culture is also the world’s popular culture: that from Buenos Aires to Jakarta to Moscow, people are drinking Coke, watching Marvel movies, listening to Beyoncé, and wearing Nike sneakers. In New Kings of the World, Fatima Bhutto brings the news that this standard view is badly… moreHarvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue