Turning the Mirror: A View from the East
Ideas Roadshow host Howard Burton caught up with Pankaj Mishra at his home in London, England.
Pankaj Mishra’s most recent book, From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia provocatively opens by declaring that, for many people, the modern world began in 1905 at the Battle of Tsushima when the Japanese navy annihilated the Russian.
For most of us, the notion that a particular battle in a relatively obscure military conflict had such a tumultuous effect on the hearts and minds of a good slice of the world is decidedly off-putting. But our feeling of discomfort only increases from there, as Mishra steadily introduces us to a long line of hitherto unheard-of writers, rebels and dreamers who dedicated their lives to the ongoing struggle against Western imperialism.
Mishra is swift to point out that, despite being born and raised in India, most of the people he writes about were largely unknown to him too until recently. Among other things, writing, for him, is necessarily an act of self-education.
“They are fascinating figures”, he told me, “but neglected, obscured. It’s high time that we look at what they were saying: how they saw the West at a particular time, how they saw their own societies, how they saw human possibility in general.”
Like Asia in general, their time has finally arrived.
The Economist has described him as 'the heir to Edward Said’. Foreign Policy magazine selected him as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2012.
Pankaj Mishra was born in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in commerce from Allahabad University before earning his Master of Arts degree in English literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
His literary and political essays have appeared in The New York Times, theNew York Review of Books, the Financial Times, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, the New Statesman, and numerous other American, British, and Indian publications. Many of his essays and articles can be found on his website. Selected readings are on this page, right column.
Mishra’s writings often explore ideas related to Imperialism, Post-colonialism, and Orientalism. His most recent book From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world’s population from Turkey to China. It was shortlisted for both The Orwell Prize and The Lionel Gelber Prize.
This conversation is introduced by UMass Lowell Professor Sue J. Kim
Professor Kim specializes in the relationship of narrative forms to race, gender, and class/capitalism; cognitive cultural studies; studies of affect (particularly anger and empathy); postmodern literature and what comes “after” postmodernism.
Video introduction from Professor Kim
[to be recorded]
Pankaj Mishra says that writing, for him, is necessarily an act of self-education. A sampler:
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Professor James Canning, Director of the Honors Program, invites all honors students to consider shaping an honors project or thesis on a topic suggested in conversation with The Ideas Roadshow.
Video introduction from Professor Canning