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Zaid Hassan, 17 Jan 04

Ziauddin Sardar is a British-Muslim writer and cultural commentator whose work explores and deepens the meeting points between cultures, Islamic as well as that of the Indian Sub-Continent, with that of the West.

The best introduction to Sardar's work is Islam, Postmodernism and Other Futures: A Ziauddin Sardar Reader - Ed. S. Inayatullah & G. Boxwell. Essays range from "Paper, Printing and Compact Discs:The Making and Unmaking of Islamic Culture" which discusses the tradition of handmade books in the Islamic world and the end of this tradition with the rise of the modern printing press; all the way to "Other Futures: Non Western Cultures in Future Studies" an interesting take on how the future is being colonised by the future studies industry.

His "Why Do People Hate America?" goes beyond the simplistic arguments of both the neocons and the left to look closely at US culture (the book opens with a discussion of the special 9-11 episode of the West Wing) as well as trying to understand the terms of the discussion -- who are these 'people' who 'hate,' and what 'America' is it that they're supposed to be busy hating? -- to asking what it means to transcend hatred.

Continuing our Bollywood theme, Sardar has penned a wonderful essay called Dilip Kumar Made Me Do It - about Indian/Bollywood movies, the central role they played in his life growing up in Britain and how the legendary Indian actor Dilip Kumar was Sardar's "guide and pathfinder." The essay tracks the development of the industry through an exploration of some key movies and explores how Bollywood acts as a rather complex mirror to currents in Indian society. The essay is published in The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema - Ed. Ashis Nandy

If, as a culture, we're genuinely interested in moving beyond the need to simply be right, to a deeper understanding of non-Western cultures, values and paradigms, then Sardar provides a lucid and accessible route.

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