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In its recent history, South Asia has witnessed a deep polarization of society fueled by ideologies that seek to exclude “the other,” variously defined through the lens of caste, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, and race.

Promoted through various media, these exclusionary discourses have overshadowed the region’s rich legacy of inclusion and humanism expressed through its vibrant literary and performative traditions, best exemplified by Amir Khusrau, South Asia’s legendary historian, poet, musician, and mystic.

During 24 Hours of Harvard, part of Harvard University’s Worldwide Week, the Mittal Institute hosted performances by musician and writer, Ali Sethi, and Dastango (story-teller), journalist, and writer, Himanshu Bajpai, with commentaries by Harvard Professor Ali Asani. The performance highlighted this cosmopolitan ethic of South Asia and its shared cultural history by showcasing Khusrau’s work and legacy.

Through the dastan-goi or qissa, a traditional form of storytelling, and the qawwali, the iconic form of South Asian Sufi poetry, the performance offers an alternative lens through which we may engage with and appreciate difference.