Remembering Saba Mahmood

Recording of an event held at LUMS to remember the life & work of

Professor Saba Mahmood.

Professor Saba Mahmood (1962-2018) was one of the foremost anthropologists of her generation.

Born in Quetta and raised mostly in Karachi, Mahmood studied at NCA, Lahore before moving to the United States in 1981 to study architecture and urban planning at the University of Washington in Seattle. She subsequently received an MA in architecture and urban planning from the University of Michigan and after practicing as an architect for some years, she went on to get an MA in Political Science from the University of Washington.

In the early 1990s, she joined Stanford University’s Anthropology program as a graduate student. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 1998 and taught at the University of Chicago before joining the University of California at Berkeley as a faculty member in 2004, where she offered her last seminar in fall 2017.  At Berkeley, in addition to the Anthropology Department, Professor Mahmood was affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Program in Critical Theory and the Institute for South Asia Studies (where she was instrumental in creating the Berkeley Pakistan Studies Initiative, the first of its kind in the United States).

Mahmood held visiting appointments at the American Academy in BerlinCenter for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and Leiden University. She taught at the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, the Venice School of Human Rights, and Institute of Global Law and Policy. She was a co-convener of the Summer Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, Irvine. Mahmood served on the editorial boards of Representations,[5] Anthropology TodayL’HommeComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and Journal of the American Academy of Religion.[6]

Her book Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject received the 2005 Victoria Schuck Award from the American Political Science Association and was an honorable mention for the 2005 Albert Hourani Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association. Her second single authored book, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report received the 2016 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Her work has been translated into Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and Polish.

Saba Mahmood was a visiting scholar at LUMS in March 2016, while here she gave a two-day seminar to faculty and students. She had planned to return to Pakistan later that year to start her new research project in her native land. She passed away on March 10, 2018 after bravely struggling against a malignancy for the past two years.

A full obituary can be read here.

Kamran Asdar Ali




Three Post-Doctoral Fellow Positions Open

ABR_1674_DxOThe Gurmani Center for Language and Literature (GCLL) and the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences (MGSHSS) at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) announces three Postdoctoral Fellow positions for the academic year 2018-2019 (ten- month duration).


More details are available on the MGSHSS website.

You can read more about the Gurmani Center’s work here.


Reflections of an Exchange Student

by Hasan Hameed

‘Can you please tell us where the M-2 is?’ I asked a girl as I entered LUMS.

‘Ask a guy’, she responded angrily.


It was only many weeks later when it dawned upon me that M-2 was the male dorm. By then, asking for directions had become something of a norm, for every building looked exactly the same: a mass of red surrounded by a sea of green. Confusing though it was, the built environment had a special air about it: vast, green fields; red-bricked buildings coated green with creepers; narrow paths shadowed by trees on either side, their branches bending inwards to form archways—within days of arriving, I had fallen in love with the campus.

I soon found other things to like. Hostellites could come in whenever, and there was no dress-code for students. Such policies ensured a (relatively) much greater degree of freedom compared to IBA and most other universities in Pakistan. And then there was the cafeteria, the Pepsi Dining Centre, where one option each of chicken, sabzi, or daal was available at every meal, as was fresh salad and dahi, all at the most reasonable of rates. It was the warmth of the HSS faculty, however, that really made me feel at home. Senior year is perhaps the worst time to come on an exchange, abandoning the familiarity of your home institute just when grad school applications and senior year projects hang ominously. But the HSS faculty in general and my instructors in particular were welcoming and friendly, pushing me to think harder about both my academic projects and my career plans. I remain deeply indebted—personally and intellectually—to their kindness.

I was equally inspired by the richness of the academic culture at large. Almost every other day the Dean’s office organized a talk by some reputed scholar, and many of the foreign scholars such as Dr Margrit Pernau and Dr Akbar Hyder stayed on or near campus to give students a chance to meet with them in person. Literature, poetry and languages were greatly promoted through weekly seminars and other events, complemented by an impressive Urdu, Persian and Arabic collection in the library. While the LUMS library has been fortunate to receive the enormous Khalid Ishaq Collection, the immaculate way in which it has been catalogued and the well-trained and accommodating staff are equally important in making the library a buzzing center for research.

Unfortunately, most of my class-fellows were not as participative as those at IBA. The appalling way Class Participation points are generally marked, with fixed points for every session, in addition to the divisive relative grading system could be potential reasons for the lack of dialogue between students. Another reason could be the absence of a core curriculum that would ensure that all students receive a shared grounding across a range of disciplines. Beyond the classroom, however, student life was a dynamic affair, and it was heartening to watch students

that would ensure that all students receive a shared grounding across a range of disciplines. Beyond the classroom, however, student life was a dynamic affair, and it was heartening to watch students unequivocally call out the administration for its shortcomings, their vocal criticisms of authority unimaginable at a place like IBA.

I felt that student life was marked by wide-spread anxiety and depression with many students struggling to adjust in a space where there is almost as much pressure to ‘party hard’ as there is to ‘study hard’. In the long run we must think critically about the deeper values and aspirations that underlie these problems. At a personal level, becoming a little more sensitive to the people around oneself by going up to that freshman eating alone in PDC and knocking on your neighbors’ doors just to say salam and enquire about their day might be some of the little steps that go a long way in combating the increasing alienation among some students and transforming it into the empowering, life-changing experience that is a university education.




Hasan Hameed, a senior in the Social Sciences and Liberal Arts department at IBA Karachi, was an exchange student during the Fall Semester 2017 at MGSHSS, LUMS




This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.

Dr Mohammad Waseem on the Rise of the Right Wing in India and Pakistan

Dr. Waseem is Professor of Political Science at the Mushtaq Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore University of Management Sciences. He was previously the Chairman of the International Relations Department, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. From 1995-1999, Professor Waseem held the Pakistan Chair at St. Antony’s College Oxford. He has been a visiting professor in Sciences Po Paris; visiting scholar in the International Programme for Advanced Studies MSH, Paris; Fulbright Fellow in the New Century Scholars Programme at The Brookings Institution, Washington DC; Fellow of the Ford Foundation at Oxford; DAAD Fellow at the University of Heidelberg; Fulbright Fellow at Columbia University, New York; Fellow of the Indian Historical Research Council, New Delhi; Fellow of the British Council in London; and Fellow of the American Political Science Association in Washington DC.

Professor Waseem has written on ethnic, Islamic, constitutional, electoral and sectarian politics of Pakistan. His books include: Politics and the State in Pakistan (1989), The 1993 Elections in Pakistan (1994) and Strengthening of Democracy in Pakistan (co-authored with S.J. Burki) (2002). He also edited the book Electoral Reform in Pakistan (2002).


Exploring the Early History of Pakistani Civil Aviation

A year or two before the Partition, Jinnah would tell the Muslim industrialist Habib Rahimtoola that he wished to form a Muslim airline:

‘Habib’, he said, ‘I want an airline which will be the reserve for the Pakistan Air Force. By starting an airline you will employ technical staff. You will have pilots. You will have navigators. You will have all these people, all trained technicians. They will be my reserve for my Air Force’.

Or so recalled the one-time senior PIA executive Enver Jamall in his 1980s memoir. One cannot be certain if Jinnah ever said those words—civil aviation remains so intertwined with nationalism that the two are difficult to disentangle, even today. But that is exactly what my new research project on the early years of Pakistani civil aviation sets out to do. Using private and public sources both in Pakistan and abroad, my project explores the contours of civil aviation in Pakistan in its early years, and its relationship to the state and the nation-building project.


Passengers and bystanders with an Orient Airways Douglas DC-3 on the occasion of the arrival of the Burmese High Commissioner to India at Calcutta, October 1947.

The outline of the early years of Pakistani civil aviation are well known. The first airline to operate out of Pakistan was Orient Airways, formed in late 1946 by a group of leading Muslim industrialists, prominently Mirza Ahmed Ispahani. Initially based in Calcutta, the airline shifted its operations to Karachi in October 1947, and remained Pakistan’s leading airline until it was folded into the newly formed Pakistan International Airline Corporation in 1955.

The period from 1947 to 1955, I am discovering, was an exciting and turbulent time for Pakistani aviation.  The fledgling Pakistani airlines–which included, as well as Orient, Yusuf Haroon’s airline Pak Air Limited and the non-scheduled charter airline Crescent Airways–struggled through a wide range of challenges. On the technical front, civil aviation had to contend with a shortage of trained personnel and spare parts, challenging maintenance logistics and rapid technological change. Other than Karachi, civilian aerodromes were crude and increasingly unsuited to the new generation aircraft entering service by the early 1950s. The relationship with the state was a difficult one—there were heavy government demands in times of emergency, and following several prominent crashes, increased government and public concerns over safety. Pakistani aviation moreover could not function without foreign assistance. British, and later American, technical support was crucial to the running of aircraft and aerial facilities. Perhaps most galling for the country’s civilian and military leadership, aeroplanes connecting East to West Pakistan needed to land and resupply in India.

The era of private civil aviation officially ended with the formation of the state- controlled Pakistan International Airline Corporation in 1955. How and why this came to be is an important aspect of my project. What pressures and opportunities pushed the state toward the creation of a state airline, and what was its relationship to the nation and nationalism more broadly? The project also explores the international context, particularly technical assistance programs by the United States, and international civil aviation (including in post-colonial states).



Waqar Zaidi is Assistant Professor at the MGSHSS.




This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.