A Person of Pakistani Origins

July 2018 9781849049870 232pp


What does it mean to be a Pakistani? Can it mean more than one thing? And what do others think it means?

Ziauddin Sardar explores what makes a Pakistani, and whether it’s something one wants or ought to be. Reflecting on his culture and heritage through tales of the Pakistanis in his life, A Person of Pakistani Origins is a whirlwind tour of duelling poets, Bollywood films, a bookish auntie who harbours feminist urges, and a vanishing uncle who reappears miles away.

Thoughtful and generously laced with humour, this book delves deep into Pakistan’s eclectic culture, and the humble insanity of everyday life for a person of Pakistani origins. Sardar richly celebrates the importance of where we come from, and of who we become.


‘An adroit genealogical inquiry, a wise meditation on the confusions and compulsions that make up an individual . . . Sardar’s captivating narrative constitutes a rebellion against the geographical truth of a country created by dissection.’ — The Times Literary Supplement 

‘This is a British cultural critic’s impassioned reflection on identity, his own and Pakistan’s, against the backdrop of the country’s tumultuous 71-year-old history.’— Shelf-Awareness

‘Sardar’s memoir is an important read for anyone who has ties with South Asia . . . its strength lies in the overturning of clichés through accounts of the author’s personal experiences.’ Newsline Magazine

‘An engrossing read [that] offers insights about what it meant to be growing up in altogether different worlds.’ — New Age Islam

‘In the twenty-first century, migration, faith, and identity are disrupting nations and dividing peoples around the globe. Ziauddin Sardar uses his own life to understand and illustrate the complexities and profundities of these forces with unbearable lightness and also emotion, honesty, beauty and wit. Sardar’s birthplace, Pakistan, causes him much aggravation, but the nation’s heartbeat echoes his own, and he is made by its long civilisation. And still deeply affected by its story. He is cosmopolitan and thoroughly grounded. This wonderful book balances the two sides with panache and integrity. It’s the way we must all learn to live.’ — Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, author of Exotic England: The Making of a Curious Nation

‘Ziauddin Sardar’s journey is emblematic for our age of tragically hardening borders. A compassionately critical thinker about faith and nationality, Sardar was born in Pakistan and made his life in London, becoming an acclaimed scholar and writer. He reminds us that we now live in a world in which passports, visas and identities can be switched in a single second from “Exempted” to “Cancelled”.’ — Ruth Padel, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London, author of On MigrationTigers in Red Weather and Emerald

‘Where so often Pakistan and Pakistanis are presented in a one-dimensional way through the prism of the latest crisis or bad news story, A Person of Pakistani Origins provides a complex, inter-generational, humorous, and deeply personal account of the many ways to be a British Pakistani.’ — Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, author of The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain


Ziauddin Sardar is an award-winning, internationally renowned writer, futurist and cultural critic. A former New Statesman columnist and Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, he has authored many books, including Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim; Reading the Qur'an; and Mecca: The Sacred City. He is editor of the influential quarterly Critical Muslim.  

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