FC holds conference to highlight importance of humanities

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LAHORE: The first International Humanities conference under the title ‘Locating the Transcultural Humanities in Pakistan/South Asia’ was hosted by Forman Christian College University in Lahore. The conference gathered over seventy eminent scholars from all over South Asia and became the largest platform of its kind in Pakistan. The focus of this conference was to highlight the importance of humanities in the transitional world.

The proceedings of the three-day conference started at 9:00am in the Sinclair hall, where the renowned Professor of Philosophy Dr Ghazala Irfan chaired the conference and welcomed the guests Dr Muhammad Nizamudin (chief guest and PHEC chairperson), FCCU Registrar Dr Hamid Saeed, Conference Convener Dr Waseem Anwar, Dr Amritjit Singh (Professor of English and African American studies at University of Ohio) and Dr Robert J.C. Young, who is the dean of Arts and Humanities, New York University, Abu Dhabi Chapter.

Dr Waseem Anwer gave a brief introduction and highlighted that the conference was specifically purposed at humanities in today’s world. According to him, humanities teach students ‘the spirit of critical discourse’. He believed that research in the areas of humanities could help reorient the production of knowledge on the whole and could offer ‘new inter-disciplinary and inter-cultural dimensions’.

Later on, Dr Nukhbah Taj Langah (co-convener and Humanities dean) took over the podium and shared the initiatives that FC College had been taking so far for the progress of humanities . She mentioned the names of the subjects of humanities that had been launched in FC College and introduced a future program called Humanities Centre of Excellence. Soon after, Dr Hamid Saeed gave a detailed account of the transformation of FC College from a college to a university and then a completely research-oriented institute. He claimed that such a progression could not have been possible without the contribution of people like FC Rector Dr James Tebbe. He then gave a brief introduction of PHEC Chairperson Dr Nizam ud Din and emphasised how Dr Nizam has been presented Sitara-e-Imtiaz among many other prestigious awards.

Then, Dr Nizam ud Din started his speech by calling himself a ‘social scientist’. He was glad to be invited at an event that included a ‘galaxy of experts’. He started off by praising the conference and discussing how the Pakistani society was in dire need of such research-oriented programmes. His primary focus was the way of pedagogy, which he referred to as the fundamental problem.

The conference was also a platform to bring into light national speakers such as Dr Syed Nomanul Haq (IBA Karachi), Dr Tariq Rehman (BNU Lahore), Dr Altaf Khan (University of Peshawar), Justice Nasira Iqbal and Dr Abdul Wahab Suri (Karachi University). World renowned FCCU scholars such as Dr Arfa Syeda Zahra and Dr Pervez A. Hoodbhoy imparted valuable insights into the core problems that were the concern of humanities not only in Pakistan but also in South Asia. Other National speakers included Dr Noman Ul Haq (IBA Karachi), Justice (rt) Nasira Iqbal, Dr Wajiha Raza Rizvi (associate professor at Beacon House National University), Dr Summer Pervez (LSE), Saeed Shafqat who is director of Center for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG), Dr Kanwal Khalid, ORIC Director Dr Kauser Abdullah Malik, Dr Hanif Rasool (Khushal Khan Khattak University), Samreen Ali (Institute of Ismaili studies London), Dr Rukhsana David from Kinnaird College for Women University, and many others.

The three-day conference started off every day with registrations at the historic Sinclair Hall where all the presenters and attendees gathered to listen to the keynote addresses. After the keynotes there was tea and refreshments before starting off with the sessions. Three panels were taking place simultaneously in different locations during a single session. Altogether seven sessions were held each day of the conference. Plenary talks, key note speeches different presentations and round table discussion from international and national speakers were all part of this conference.

On the first day a mushaira and conference dinner were arranged as part of the social evening. The mushaira was itself a star-studded event as Amjad Islam Amjad was the chief guest; other prominent names who graced the event were Dr Asghar Nadeem Syed, Dr Sughra Sadaf, Syed Salman Gillani, Akhtar Shumar and others. However on the second day students of FCCU performed to entertain the audience through their talent. The targeted audiences for this conference were Masters and PhD students and also the teaching faculty of the humanities from various universities of Pakistan.

The speakers shed light on the valuable researches made in the arena of humanities as Digitized Humanities was also brought into the light. Various pros and cons faced by the Humanities departments and as a whole in and out of South Asia was presented by eminent speakers.

In their closing remarks, Dr Joseph Sun, Dr Waseem Anwar, Dr Nukhbah Taj Langah and Dr Ghazala Irfan thanked the scholars, faculty and students for their active participation in making the event a success. The conference came to a successful end with the note that it might be ending, but it is a beginning of a bright and innovative future for the discipline of the humanities in Pakistan and South Asia.