Habib University inaugurated Comparative Liberal Studies (CLS), an undergraduate programme bringing together four branches of knowledge within the neglected field of humanities included history, philosophy, religious studies, and literature.
Marking the newly formed interdisciplinary programme, the HU held a day-long symposium titled ‘Critical Knowledge: Pioneering Comparative Liberal Studies at HU’, 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 programme is to reinvent, re-imagine and revive the knowledge systems that have become marginalised and what the study of humanities has been in the past and in the West,” as explained CLS Director Programme Dr Nur Sobers-Khan.
The event featurld, 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.
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 endeavour 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 programme 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 the 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 said, “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 was 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 have been developed together with academics of leading partner universities across the world.
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