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Pakistan

Web Desk
December 15, 2018

Critical knowledge: Reconnecting with local heritage

Pakistan

Web Desk
Sat, Dec 15, 2018

KARACHI: The Habib University inaugurated a first-of-its-kind program and major, Comparative Liberal Studies (CLS), an undergraduate program bringing together four branches of knowledge within the neglected field of humanities, namely: History, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Literature.

Marking the launch of this new, interdisciplinary program, Habib University held a day-long Symposium titled ‘Critical Knowledge: Pioneering Comparative Liberal Studies at Habib University’, which discussed recovering local spiritual and historical traditions, investigating unexplored primary sources, and engaging in traditional or sacred arts and music.

 "One of the goals of the new program is to reinvent, re-imagine and revive the knowledge systems that have become marginalized and what the study of 'humanities' has been in the past and in the ‘West’", as explained by Dr. Nur Sobers-Khan, Director of the CLS Program at Habib University.

Starting off the event was the introduction of CLS by Dr. Nauman Naqvi, Assistant Professor of CLS. The event featured leading international scholars with the keynote speakers Dr. Abbas Amanat, an eminent historian of Iran and the Persianate world, who has taught at Yale University for almost four decades, and Dr. Jo-Ann Gross from The College of New Jersey, an authority on Sufism and the Ismaili tradition in Central and South Asia.

Keynote speaker Dr. Abbas Amanat was introduced by Dr. Waleed Ziad as "a world-leading historian who has shaped my own scholarship" at Yale University.

 In his inspiring talk called ‘Persianate Studies as an Interdisciplinary Space’ Dr. Amanat argued that "Persianate studies is an urgently productive, interdisciplinary field that can connect with more geographically constructed ambient fields, yielding new horizons of knowledge." 

Clearly explaining the relevance of teaching and studying the humanities, he observed "With the tradition of Sufism, and tolerance, South Asia can contribute a multi-dimensional sense of tolerance that is a part of the intellectual endeavor that was a part and parcel of what education was in this part of the world."

The Symposium’s two panel discussions included ‘Coffee with Plato, Al Farabi, and Marx’, with Dr. Muhammad Haris, Dr. Nauman Naqvi, and Dr. Jessica Radin, who discussed the relevance of ancient, Islamic and modern philosophy.

The second panel discussion titled ‘Doors of Perception’ included Dr. Nur Sobers-Khan, Dr. Fracisco Jose Luis, and Dr. Waleed Ziad, all faculty of the CLS program at Habib University. Dr. Waleed observed that "we have inherited a system of education that doesn't encourage us to look inwards", while Dr. Muhammad Haris responded "Are we actually inheriting knowledge from the past? If we don’t have knowledge, are we actually leaving any knowledge for the future generations? Answering questions such as this are the reason programs like CLS are important." 

Much of the day’s speakers subtly gave their personal insights and experiences that have shaped their learning journeys. Dr. Jessica Radin contributed that "This incredible joy that comes from gaining knowledge, however hard it is to gain, is one of the most important keys of life. 

This is what we try to transfer to our students. The pursuit of knowledge requires us to face that we are in moments of crises and there are possibly bad and irredeemable things that we must face with honesty and without despair."

A highlight of this Symposium were short yet insightful presentations by students of Habib University, speaking on their field research on the ‘Sacred Geographies’ of LasBela during a course of the same title.

 In fact, these presentations were a testament to the university’s interdisciplinary teaching, which is at once theoretical and practical, analytic and emotive, historical and constructive.

Habib University is the first dedicated Liberal Arts and Sciences University in Pakistan, teaching an innovative and comprehensive liberal core curriculum to all students that has been developed together with academics of leading partner universities across the world.

 Through a comparative approach, the new CLS program aims to communicate critically essential knowledge in the humanities, and to cultivate students as socially conscious citizens grounded in Pakistan’s rich philosophical, intellectual, and cultural traditions, who can seek thoughtful, historically rooted solutions to the challenges that we face today.