Dr. Ayesha Jalal, a renowned Pakistani-American historian on the globe, holds a unique conceptualization within the minds of fellow Luminites. Her dense and intellectually stimulating articles form a part of the perceived notions we hold dearly for her. We have decided to share her thoughts about the LUMS community as well.
Q: Was your decision to pursue history inclined towards following your passion or the result of the consequences because generally, people are not fond of history as a major?
A: I was doing a double in Political Science and History in Wellesley College. I moved to history primarily because I wanted to study partition. I wanted to know more about the long-drawn split. Also, the methodology employed in history was more close to me. In history, one first finds and studies facts. After this, those facts are used to formulate a hypothesis. I found this sort of reasoning more sound.
Q: According to Wikipedia, your father was a civil servant. Generally, if one of the parents is a civil servant, it follows that the next generation also pursues CSS. What made you not enter the profession which is otherwise deemed much lucrative?
A: My father joined the Civil Service because he saw the stability which private sector didn’t provide at that time. Also, part of the reason was that he wanted to educate us. My father’s fate in the civil service was absolutely the reason why I didn’t want to go anywhere near the government. If you want to speak and write, that must originate from the courage to defend that idea not because someone tells you to say so. I wanted to study history and I am fortunate that my father supported me in this.
Q: How do you compare the student body of LUMS with that of Tufts?
A: Students are bright. My only observation about LUMS students is that they are not well advised. Advising is an important of student experience as well as teaching. This is where I feel sad about bachas. Professional advising should be an important part of counseling. Bachas need more support mechanisms.
Q: In your article “Conjuring Pakistan: History as Official Imaginings”, you talked about developing a collective ethos via dialogue rather than relying on already constructed narratives. How can we, as students who aren’t fully aware of the academic world and discourses, contribute to the process?
A: Critical Thinking is what we need to inculcate. What students are taught are ideologies. History means “to investigate”. Ideology gives you what to think not how to think. Students who are critical should discuss within themselves. I believe colloquiums can contribute to the process too. In a colloquium, a teacher with 5-6 students go through a book and certain students are responsible for certain parts of the book.
Q: There is a general pessimism with the current state of the affairs of Pakistan. Such that, students and people, in general, want to leave this place and look forward to a more progressive future there. What is your take on this?
A: In Pakistan, history as a discipline has been killed. Instead, ideology has been perpetuated via so-called “Pakistan Studies”. The result of which is that people become more presentist. When you see your present predicament, you see no hope. When you see people and children blown out, you naturally lose hope. However, when you see everything in a long context, you see other things. Life is all about perspective. History gives you that perspective. History makes us understand why certain things happened and that they can be changed. Pessimism, too, is a result of false causes and the young needs to disabused of that.
Q: Would you like to convey any message or advice for the LUMS student body?
A: I think students should demand more counseling, advising, and services especially more career services. Students should inculcate in themselves the need to seek advice. Also, they should push for better residential services. A dorm is not a place to sleep. There should be an ambiance. Much needs to be done at residential services. Above all, I believe that students should better articulate their needs so that they are better served. Students have to be heard because they matter.
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