From the Ruins of Empire: book talk with author Pankaj Mishra

JANUARY 31, 2013 from 7-9 PM




Co-sponsored by n+1

The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe.

Foreign soldiers and merchants tore apart the great empires which had once formed the heart of civilization. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover a vast intellectual effort would be required.

Pankaj Mishra’s fascinating, highly entertaining new book tells the story of a remarkable group of men from across the continent who met the challenge of the West. Incessantly travelling, questioning and agonising, they both hated the West and recognised that an Asian renaissance needed to be fuelled in part by engagement with the enemy. Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia. Sitting in the midst of ruins of the old empires which now seemed doomed to permanent partition by predatory foreigners, these thinkers created the ideas which in turn were to doom the new empires, and which lie behind the powerful Asian nations of the twenty-first century.


PANKAJ MISHRA writes literary and political essays for the New York Times, the New York Review of BooksThe Guardian, the New YorkerLondon Review of Books, Bloomberg View, among other American, British, and Indian publications. His work has also appeared in Times Literary SupplementFinancial TimesWashington PostBoston GlobeTimeThe IndependentGrantaThe NationN+1PoetryCommon KnowledgeOutlook, and Harper’s.  He was a visiting professor at Wellesley College in 2001, 2004, and 2006. In 2004-2005 he received a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars, New York Public Library. For 2007-08, he was the Visiting Fellow at the Department of English, University College, London. In 2009, he was nominated a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is the author of  An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World and Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond, among other notable books. (



MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI is Professor of English at Brooklyn College and on the Advisory Board of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. Professor Bayoumi is the author of the critically acclaimed How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin), which won an American Book Award and the Arab American Book Award for Non-Fiction. The book has also been translated into Arabic by Arab Scientific Publishers. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The Guardian, The National,, The London Review of Books, The Nation, and other places. His essay “Disco Inferno” was included in the collection Best Music Writing of 2006 (Da Capo). Bayoumi is also the co-editor of The Edward Said Reader (Vintage) and editor of Midnight on Mavi Marmara: the Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict (O/R Books & Haymarket Books). He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun-Times, and on CNN, FOX News, Book TV, National Public Radio, and many other media outlets from around the world. (

SUSAN JAKES is Editor at and a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. From 2000-2007 she reported on China for Time Magazine from Hong Kong and Beijing. She studied Chinese history at Yale where her doctoral research has focused on China’s environmental history and on the global history of ecology.



NIKIL SAVAL is editor at n+1.

1 thought on “From the Ruins of Empire: book talk with author Pankaj Mishra

  1. Pingback: VIDEO: Pankaj Mishra – From the Ruins of Empire Book Talk | The Center for Place, Culture and Politics

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