CSRC-AIPS Conference on Future of Pakistan Studies

ASU center hosts conference on future of Pakistan studies

By

Terry Williams

On April 28-29, Arizona State University's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict  hosted "Trending Pakistan," an international conference on the current state and future direction of Pakistan studies, especially in the context of that country's unique history.

The event featured leading scholars from the U.S., Europe and Pakistan.

"We assembled this group in order to critically investigate and learn from one another how to do new history of Pakistan in the twenty-first century," said Yasmin Saikia, professor of history, Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies and the conference convener at ASU.

"Trending Pakistan" was organized in collaboration with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) and co-convened by AIPS President Kamran Ali, an anthropology professor and director of the South Asia Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

"Eventually the idea is that through this collaborative work, and in bringing different scholars into dialogue on various themes related to Pakistan Studies, that we would come out with a publication to talk about where the study of Pakistan should be going over the next ten or fifteen years," Ali said.

The conference provided a unique opportunity for scholars from diverse disciplines and locations, who all share an interest in Pakistan, to come together.

"The study of Pakistan is so difficult because it is this geo-political hot button site, but you never actually get a critical mass of experts in a room to sit and talk together and actually push the field forward," said Farina Mir, AIPS Vice President and associate professor of history at University of Michigan.

Ammar Jan, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Cambridge, summed up the value of the conference, saying: "What the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, ASU and AIPS have done with this collaoration is actually provide us with this community where scholars working on Pakistan can come together."

It was also a chance to participate in a professional academic forum for four visiting scholars from Pakistan, who were in residence at the center as part of a larger exchange project.

"Coming from Pakistan as a visiting scholar from University of the Punjab, it has been a great experience to interact with such outstanding scholars," said Rahla Rahat. "In this globalized world it is essential to have these interntational linkages." Rahat and her Pakistani colleagues Akram Somroo, Ahmed Usman and Seemab Far Bukhari each delivered papers for one of the conference's afternoon panel discussions on "Discourses and Developmentalism."

Conference proceedings are expected to be published later in 2016.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is an interdisciplinary research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that examines the role of religion as a driving force in human affairs.