MGSHSS was host to multiple series of talks over the Fall Semester (2017-2018) by scholars, writers, and artists.
The HSS Seminar Series, organized by Mohammad Waseem and Asma Faiz, included sessions on topics surrounding feminism, Marxism in South Asia, nationalism, and so on. Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Director of Lok Virsa in Islamabad, gave a talk on ‘Developing a Framework for Indigenous Feminism’, in which she highlighted the need for recognizing and documenting the stories of South Asian women who fought for their rights, dating back to the literary classics that portrayed female characters with agency and power and resolve to make their own decisions. Dr. Ammar Jan gave a talk on anti-colonial Marxism in light of M.N. Roy’s works. Asma Faiz presented on the Sindhi nationalist narrative, while Waqar Zaidi’s lecture addressed the history of civil aviation in Pakistan. Mariam Chughtai spoke in her lecture about religious ideology in the education policies of Pakistan over several decades.
Bilal Tanweer of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences organized a series of events under the title of ‘Conversations on Contemporary Culture’. The series began with the launch of Muslims Against the Muslim League (Cambridge, 2017), co-edited by Ali Usman Qasmi.
The next event in the series was the launch of Harris Khalique’s Crimson Papers (OUP, 2017). A student-led discussion on Rasul Bakhsh Rais’s Imagining Pakistan: Modernism, State, and the Politics of Islamic Revival (Lexington Books, 2017) also took place as part of the series. Professor Rais’ book went on to win both the KLF Non-Fiction Best Book Award, 2018 and the KLF Best Book German Peace Award, 2018 at the 9th Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) held from February 9 to 11, 2018.
Dr. Nasir Abbas Nayyar (Director, Urdu Science Board), too, was part of the series with the launch of his book, Miraji (OUP, 2017).
The Department of Economics hosted some fascinating events in the Fall Semester. Dr. Shahrukh Rafi Khan of the Mount Holyoke College gave two lectures: one on ‘Catch-up Growth’ and the other on ‘Principles of a Liberal Arts and Sciences Education’. In the latter, he drew upon his own experience as a professor at a prestigious liberal arts college to describe the process and the advantages of a liberal arts education. Dr. Robert Carl Michael Beyer, a macroeconomist at the South Asia Office of the World Bank, spoke about how satellite imagery and luminosity observed from the outer space can be a good indicator of measuring a region’s GDP. In another session, Hadia Majid and Dr. Kate Vyborny (Duke University) presented their findings on ‘Infrastructure investments and public transport use: Evidence from Lahore, Pakistan’.
Emotions and Modernity in Colonial India
Ateeb Gul and Sara Saleem Khan
Professor Margrit Pernau of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, addressed students and faculty in a talk titled ‘Emotions and Modernity in Colonial India’. Dr. Pernau began with a discussion of whether it is possible to write a history of emotion, and what the value of that history would be. She suggested that emotions do not merely change through history, but also affect it. The challenge in such a study is not merely to determine the way emotions have been differently valued, but rather what it means—or has meant—to have different emotional norms, and the combined effects of these on historical events.
As a case study, Dr. Pernau elaborated on the events of the Kanpur Mosque incident in pre- Partition India in 1913. According to her, while modernity has most commonly been seen as a force for disciplining emotions, research indicates that modernity has, in certain places, encouraged an excess of emotions—nationalism being a prominent example of this. Using this lens, she described the Kanpur Mosque incident, in which the colonial government in Kanpur made a decision to demolish the washing area of a mosque in the city’s Machli Bazar in order to expand an existing road. What ensued were protests, in print and in person, that eventually led to multiple deaths. These protests revolved around the notion of “josh” (passion), aroused in the public through a whole campaign of articles and speeches in Urdu that lamented the destruction.
She also discussed the relation between emotions and will, invoking the writings of Abdul Majid Daryabadi, a Muslim scholar and mufassir, who began translating texts on psychology into Urdu around the same time as the mosque incident, and eventually reached the conclusion that emotions are not affected by will; rather, they affect it. And moreover, that knowledge, creation and the discussion of emotions as a category feed back into their development. Her talk was followed by a question and answer session that examined other fascinating aspects of the history of emotions in South Asia, and elaborated on the relationship of Dr. Pernau’s work to previous academic work on the subject.
Ateeb Gul is Teaching Fellow and Senior Editor at MGSHSS. Sara Saleem Khan is Research Fellow at MGSHSS.
Three Feminist Poets at LUMS
Sara Saleem Khan and Onaiza Arshad
In September, the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative and the Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature hosted Attiya Dawood, Tanveer Anjum and Amar Sindhu for a talk titled Struggles and Dreams: Three Feminist Poets’. Tanveer Anjum, who is a prominent Urdu poet and translator, has had seven collections published in her name, and has had her poems translated and anthologized in various countries. Attiya Dawood, a celebrated Sindhi poet, writer and activist, has been hailed as ‘the most important feminist writer in Sindhi’. Amar Sindhu is a prominent columnist, activist and Sindhi language poet, as well as a Professor of Philosophy and Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy at Sindh University, Jamshoro.
The discussion was moderated by Kamran Asdar Ali, who began the program by introducing the three poets and asking them to elaborate a little on their poetry and their personal journeys. The discussion that followed was a fascinating glimpse into the very diverse circumstances that brought each of the three women to their poetry and activism. Tanveer Anjum spoke about the restrictions of growing up middle-class in Karachi, the further suffocation of a bad marriage and the psychological and spiritual freedom that her poetry gave her before the ‘formal’ freedom she attained during her graduate studies in the U.S. The conversation around their personal histories brought out the important intersections between their political activism, feminist thought and creative work. All three discussed their personal negotiations of feminist ideas, and their struggle to adapt them to their own lives and contexts. Amar Sindhu said that she thought of it as an act of translation, and endeavors constantly to re- articulate in Sindhi any concepts she encounters. On a similar note, Attiya Dawood shared the humorous story of how she came to own the label of feminism—when somebody else described her as feminist without asking her, she learnt from him what the term meant, and has acknowledged ever since that she fits the bill.
The three poets also recited their works for the audience, which was very well received. The poems touched on themes including motherhood, writing, politics, and simultaneously seemed an acknowledgement of the problematic realities that they described, as well as resistance to it. After the recital, the audience engaged the guests further by asking about their experiences in activist circles, their influences and inspirations, notions of translation and ideas of form. The event concluded after a spirited and involved discussion, and a similar session was held at Books and Beans in Gulberg the following day, moderated by writer Bilal Tanweer.
Sara Saleem Khan is Research Fellow at MGSHSS. Onaiza Arshad is Coordinator of the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative.
Young Writers Workshop
As its annual literary fixture that has gained a lot of popularity among young, potential writers, LUMS organized a five-day residential creative writing workshop from August 14 to 18, 2017.
Out of 180 submissions, writers of eight outstanding short stories were invited for an all expenses- paid workshop with mentor, Bilal Tanweer, and guest speaker, Omar Shahid Hamid. This year’s batch of writers included Isra Zia Ansari, Hira Awais and Afrasiyab from Islamabad; Hurmat Kazmi and Kashaf Ali from Karachi; Ghammaz Hussain, Aaina Batool and the youngest participant who just completed his A’Levels, Saud Afzal, from Lahore. The participants represented a range of academic disciplines and working backgrounds— from architecture to finance, anthropology, NGOs and business.
The plan of the workshop for the first three days included reading and discussion of works of fiction: Family Life by Akhil Sharma, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz, A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, as well as The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid. Bilal Tanweer, the mentor and workshop organizer, led classes on the elements of literary craft and narrative construction, as well as on the politics of storytelling. Omar Shahid Hamid took over the workshop discussion on the fourth day, and brought in his unique perspective and shared his experiences as a writer with the participants in an intense two-hour session.
The heart of the workshop was peer critiques. This rigorous exercise allowed participants to hone their writing skills by critiquing peer work, thereby sharpening their critical abilities to evaluate and edit works of fiction. On the final day, the originally submitted stories were critiqued, and participants were given guidelines for the publishing process.
The LUMS Young Writers Workshop & Short Story Contest 2017 has completed six years. The number of graduates from the workshops is over 40. It remains a unique and one-of-a-kind platform in Pakistan, helping young writers learn and advance their craft of literary writing. It has been made possible through a generous grant from Ferozsons Pharmaceuticals.
Bilal Tanweer is Assistant Professor at MGSHSS.
This is an edited version of an article first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.