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Fatima Bhutto in conversation with Nermeen Shaikh at the Asia Society

New York, NY

October 01, 2019 | Tuesday | 6:30 pm

Asia Society & Museum

725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021 ( see map )
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 In New Kings of the World, Fatima Bhutto brings the news that this standard view is badly out of date.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.

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.

Nermeen Shaikh is a broadcast news producer and weekly co-host at Democracy Now! in New York City. She worked in research and non-governmental organizations before joining Democracy Now! She has a masters of philosophy from Cambridge University and is the author of The Present as History: Critical Perspectives on Global Power. Follow her on Twitter at @nermeendn.

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Nermeen Shaikh

Nermeen shaikh 85x113
Nermeen Shaikh is a producer and co-host of Democracy Now! Nermeen has previously worked in research and non-governmental organizations and has an M.Phil. from Cambridge University. She is the author of The Present as History: Critical Perspectives on Global Power (Columbia University Press). You can watch her TEDx talk here