A critical eye on Pakistan

  • June 21, 2017
A critical eye on Pakistan

Two scholars have set up a research cluster on Pakistan to broaden discussion on issues relating to the country.

The post-9/11 era has exacerbated this trend where international aid has siphoned off the intellectual energy from Pakistan's higher education institutions by diverting attention towards security-centric topics or important but select priorities defined from abroad.

Arif Naveed and Mahvish Ahmad

Two scholars have set up a research cluster on Pakistan to explore innovative and critical scholarship on the country.

Gates Cambridge Scholar Arif Naveed [2014] and Cambridge International Trust Scholar Mahvish Ahmad have established the ‘Critical Pakistan at Cambridge ‘Research Cluster, based initially at the Centre for South Asia Studies with membership from across the departments of the University of Cambridge. It aims to approach existing research on Pakistan with a critical eye. To do so, it will function as a specialist forum on Pakistan, organising readings of new scholarship on Pakistan and inviting scholars of Pakistan from around the world to present their latest research. It will also provide opportunities for students and academics to present their work on Pakistan to peers who are well-versed on the political, intellectual and empirical debates pertinent to the country.

The research cluster came about due to a long-held and widely-shared concern among scholars of Pakistan that research has often been defined and shaped by international donors and state interests. Mahvish and Arif, who are doing their PhDs on Sociology and Education respectively, say: "The post-9/11 era has exacerbated this trend where international aid has siphoned off the intellectual energy from Pakistan's higher education institutions by diverting attention towards security-centric topics or important but select priorities defined from abroad. Meanwhile, state policy and the general political environment has reduced the space for critical scholarship in Pakistan, exemplified by a letter distributed to universities by the Higher Education Commission in 2014, illustrating the ways in which vague reference to ideology is deployed to curtail scholarly freedom and subject the already fragile community of scholars to new forms of censorship.

"These drivers of and limitations to research on Pakistan do not denigrate the excellent scholarship that is, nevertheless, produced, but they do call for both a more discerning approach and a more creative exploration of other, lesser-researched topics, on Pakistan. Creating a network of scholars on Pakistan is fundamental to these endeavours and we envisage this research cluster as a central forum for the exchange of ideas and knowledge."

The cluster's inaugural forum was held on May 24th and was led by Pakistani scholar Kamran Asdar Ali, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the President of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. The forum was also attended by many other scholars and students and generated a rich discussion on the future of social research in Pakistan.

*For more information email ma643@cam.ac.uk or man48@cam.ac.uk. Picture credit: Wikimedia commons. Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

 

 

Muhammad Arif Naveed

Muhammad Arif Naveed

  • Alumni
  • Pakistan
  • 2014 PhD Education
  • Jesus College

I grew up in an educationally disadvantaged village in South Punjab in Pakistan, witnessing various forms of inequality. With an aspiration to influence public policies on poverty reduction, I trained myself at the postgraduate level in the disciplines of economics, international development, and sociology of education. Over the last eight years, I have been engaged in policy research and contributed to the debates on the issues of poverty, inequality, education and knowledge systems for policy making in Pakistan. By re-conceptualising schooling and poverty from the perspective of the poor, my doctoral research examines if education is the best way out of poverty and towards social mobility. It explores the extent to which schooling enhances the social, economic and political participation of the poor in rural Pakistan. This interdisciplinary project is aimed at generating insights that will help reform education so that it plays a transformative role in the lives of the poor.

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