University launches major in Comparative Liberal Studies

KARACHI - The Habib University on Saturday inaugurated the first-of-its-kind major titled Comparative Liberal Studies, an undergraduate programme bringing together four branches of knowledge from the neglected fields of humanities -- History, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Literature.

Marking the launch of this new, interdisciplinary programme, the Habib University held a day-long symposium titled “Critical Knowledge: Pioneering Comparative Liberal Studies at Habib University”. The symposium discussed recovering local spiritual and historical traditions, investigating unexplored primary sources and engaging traditional or sacred arts and music. "One of the goals of the new programme is to reinvent, reimagine and revive the knowledge systems that have become marginalized and what the study of humanities has been in the past and in the West," said Dr Nur Sobers-Khan, director of the Comparative Liberal Studies Programme at the Habib University.

Starting off the event was the introduction of CLS by Dr Nauman Naqvi, Director of CLS and Assistant Professor of CLS at Habib University. The event featured leading international scholars with thin addition to the CLS faculty. The keynote speakers included Dr Abbas Amanat, an eminent historian of Iran and the Persianate world who has taught at Yale University for almost four decades and Dr Jo-Ann Gross from The College of New Jersey, an authority on Sufism and the Ismaili tradition in Central and South Asia.

Keynote speaker Dr Abbas Amanat was introduced by Dr Waleed Ziad as "a world-leading historian who has shaped my own scholarship" at Yale University. In his inspiring talk titled “Persianate Studies as an Interdisciplinary Space”, Dr Amanat argued "Persianate Studies is an urgently productive, interdisciplinary field that can connect with more geographically constructed ambient fields, yielding new horizons of knowledge."

Clearly explaining the relevance of teaching and studying the humanities, he observed, "With the tradition of Sufism and tolerance, South Asia can contribute a multidimensional sense of tolerance that is a part of the intellectual endeavour that was a part and parcel of what education was in this part of the world."

The symposium’s two panel discussions included “Coffee with Plato, Al Farabi and Marx” chaired by Dr Muhammad Haris, Dr Nauman Naqvi and Dr Jessica Radlin. They discussed the relevance of ancient, Islamic and modern philosophy. The second panel discussion titled “Doors of Perception” included Dr Nur Sobers-Khan, Dr Francisco Jose Luis and Dr Waleed Ziad, all faculty members of the CLS programme at the Habib University. Dr Waleed observed that "we have inherited a system of education that doesn't encourage us to look inwards". Dr Muhammad Haris responded, "Are we actually inheriting knowledge from the past? If we don’t have knowledge, are we actually leaving any knowledge for the future generations?”

Answering questions such as this are the reason programmes like CLS are important, he said.

Much of the day’s speakers subtly gave their personal insights and experiences that have shaped their learning journeys. Dr Jessica Radin said, "This incredible joy that comes from gaining knowledge, however hard it is to gain, is one of the most important keys of life. This is what we try to transfer to our students. The pursuit of knowledge requires us to face that we are in moments of crises and there are possibly bad and irredeemable things that we must face with honesty and without despair."


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