History Society meets at Forman Christian College FCC University FCCU Lahore
In April 2013, a meeting of the newly launched History Society in Lahore was held at Forman Christian College. This session was attended by historians from GC University, Punjab University, Lahore College for Women University, University of Sargodha and FC College. Professor Virinder Singh from the University of Manchester also attended the meeting. The meeting was introduced by the Secretary of the History Society, Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, Chairman, Department of History, FC College, and chaired by Professor Sikandar Hayat, Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy, FC College, who spoke about Research Methods.
In his talk Dr Hayat agreed that the state of social sciences was really bad in Pakistan. He recognized the good work of the Higher Education Commission in promoting the social sciences, but iterated that a lot more work, especially by academics, needs to be done. Dr Hayat said that the most important twin issues are quality and impact.
He said that there was a time that there were recognized names in Pakistan like Dr I H Querishi and Dr Z H Zaidi. Now, however, he said that there was hardly any recognizable name in history in Pakistan. This lack of world recognized scholars in Pakistan is adversely affecting the quality of work, especially PhD supervision and research in Pakistan. Dr Hayat said ‘you are known by the supervisor you keep,’ not the university one is registered in.
Professor Hayat noted that ‘we, the historians, need to reclaim our space in the discourse on Pakistani history and politics.’ He lamented the fact that most Pakistanis love to quote foreign based scholars, and do not ever cite local scholars, even if their work is really good. He said that we need to create a nucleus of good scholars, but also need numbers in departments. Therefore students need to be encouraged to take up study of the subject. ‘We need to keep the core but also look at the market demand,’ in order to attract more students.
Discussing the way in which history is conceptualized and taught in Pakistan, Dr Hayat said that ‘most historians in Pakistan are writing without any engagement with other scholars.’ This lack of ‘literature review,’ leads to very shallow and myopic research. People do not even know the difference between ‘literature review,’ and a ‘book review,’ he said. ‘Most are just summarizing and no new arguments are being made,’ Dr Hayat exclaimed. Most historians are pre-occupied with chronological descriptions without much analysis. ‘We are very good with telling stories without any theme or intellectual research,’ said Dr Hayat. An emphasis on ‘data collection,’ has made scholars in Pakistan entangled in just collection of material without any analysis.
Speaking of solutions, Dr Hayat argued that we need to take research methods and methodology—and they are two different, yet related, subjects—seriously. He said that we need to engage with theoretical frameworks, and use empirical research. We need to use inductive reasoning, be theory generating (not simply following), subjective and non-positivist, Dr Hayat strongly argued.
Professor Hayat said that all history departments need to first train members in research methods, and then methodology and historiography and finally the philosophy of history. These three elements form the basic triangle of tools essential for research.
During the discussion, Dr Bangash stated that the History Society can be a platform where such issues in terms of research, methodology, curriculum development, and other relevant things should be discussed. The Society should also be an opportunity for peer review of works in progress, and further critical and cutting edge research in Pakistan.
Dr Iqbal Chawla, Chairman, Department of History, Punjab University, supported the History Society, and emphasized the point that we do have a lot of good scholars and work in Pakistan; it just needs to be developed further and promoted. Rivalries among academics, especially in history where there are not that many scholars in the field in any case, are hampering progress in the discipline, he said. Professor Farhat Mahmud from GC University appreciated the holding of such seminars and gave it full support. The faculty of Lahore College also appreciated such endeavors and were excited to be a part of such an initiative.
The meeting ended with all agreeing to meet once every month to discuss issues relating to history.