Dean's Message

Dean’s Message

Welcome to the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS. We are the largest school at LUMS and pride ourselves on our world class faculty and thriving student life. At MGSHSS we feel that a major challenge that universities face today due to funding constraints and market forces is the emphasis on short term benefits (marketability), rather than pushing the limits of human imagination. We need to remember that lifelong scholarly conviction and human curiosity, with the help of some luck (serendipity), were major forces that were strong enough to break through the mental walls needed to create new transformations in all fields of knowledge. Inventions like the radio or the television could not have been realized without the pioneering work by Michael Faraday or James Maxwell in the 1850s on electromagnetism. Their “useless” knowledge—as described in their day—makes it possible for us today to live in a world that cannot be sustained without electricity or wireless. For that matter, the development of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century has led to the proliferation of microprocessors, nano-technology, and lasers.

Such an approach toward human knowledge and its intended and unintended consequences, guides us at MGSHSS where we encourage a broad liberal arts agenda. Following the educator Michael S. Roth, we envisage that a social science and humanities based college degree has two streams, philosophical and rhetorical. In contemporary higher education, the philosophical stream has resulted in emphases on inquiry and critical thinking; acquiring knowledge to conduct research. Along with this spirit of critique is the practice of rhetoric through which students learn how to participate in traditions of compelling cultural interest. The coming together of these two strands links the pursuit of curiosity and disinterested knowledge to cultural participation in a body of tradition of received wisdom and of lifelong learning. Further, these interconnected aspects help students understand their connections with a shared past, with a common present, and with a collective future.

We believe that our students acquire this knowledge by delving into works on politics, sociology, economics, culture, religion, art, literature, science, and aesthetics. We accomplish this through our faculty who have received training at leading universities in the world. Deeply engaged with local realities, members of our faculty have altered the way in which the social sciences and the humanities are taught in Pakistan. Their passion and commitment are reflected in the vibrant intellectual culture of the school, and translate into teaching that is truly transformative.

Our endeavor remains to create a learning environment that is not merely about vocational training, but about educating a citizenry that understands each other, recognizes differences of all kinds, and yet works together to create a tolerant and socially just society. Utopian as these ideals are, at LUMS and at MGSHSS we strive to create this pedagogical impetus in order to embrace and understand difference, even if it takes us beyond our comfort zones. We seek to inculcate in our students the spirit of curious thinking, of risk taking, and of thinking outside the box. Simultaneously, we want to impart in them the ability to be excellent communicators, whether in the written form or the verbal. We are confident that, equipped with these skills, our graduates would be able to overcome all challenges they are faced with, whether they have to work in the public sector, the private sector, for non-governmental organizations, or in the academia.

Dr. Kamran Asdar Ali joins LUMS as Dean of MGSHSS

Dr. Ali is professor of Anthropology, Middle East Studies, and Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his PhD from the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) in anthropology. Previously he has taught at the University of Rochester (NY) and has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1998–99), a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) of the University of Leiden (2005), and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (2010–2011).

He has conducted field research in Mexico, in Egypt, and in Pakistan, on issues pertaining to health and gender, ethnicity, class politics, sexuality, and popular culture. Among his other publications, he is also the author of Planning the Family in Egypt: New Bodies, New Selves (2002) and co-editor of Gendering Urban Space in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa (2008), Comparing Cities: Middle East and South Asia (2009), and Gender, Politics, and Performance in South Asia (2015). His most recent book is Communism in Pakistan: Politics and Class Activism 1947–1972 (2015).