Tick Tock IV

Griff Witte’s Musharraf’s Military Reaches Deep Into Pakistani Society, WaPo, June 27: “Yet in a country where the military has long been immune from criticism, its extraordinary power is now drawing open contempt from civilians. A campaign against Musharraf that began three months ago, following his suspension of the chief justice, has exploded into a full-fledged movement to oust the armed services from civilian life and send the generals back to their barracks.”

Carlotta Gall’s As Pakistan’s Chief Looks Ahead, Army Holds the Cards, NYT, June 28: “Asked if the corps commanders might tell the general he had to go, he answered, “We may be coming to that stage.”

There used to be a time when the biggest “social program” Pakistani intellectuals hammed about was de-feudalization. The wave of the future: de-militarization.


zibahposter.jpgOmar Ali Khan – an aficionado and connoisseur of the weird and macabre lollywod/Punjabi cinema – has released his first directorial effort: Zibahkhana [literally, Slaughterhouse]. I hope that it gets out on DVD etc. as well. Our ChiTrib recently had Kim Barker’s report, Zombies breathe life into film, that I read and railed against [It is not Pakistan’s first horror film and ‘serious’ is not how I would characterize any of Pakistani cinema and the ‘slasher genre’ reached Pakistan soundly by the time of Wahshi Jatt or the masterpiece Maula Jatt]. Oh well. I remember, as a teenager, watching this awesome horror movie called Zinda Laash/Living Dead] during some cricket tournament and yelling juggats at the tv screen [Also catch the Bollywood version – Bandh Darwaza/Closed Door]. I hope Zibahkhana is as fun.

South Asian Studies at ASPAC

Guest Post by Jonathan Dresner

Sepoy has graciously agreed to let me guest-blog my conference experiences again, this time about South Asian studies at the Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast Conference (ASPAC).

I’m a complete conference geek: I hate missing panels, and I love talking about the panels afterwards. My biggest complaint about this conference, thinking about it now, is the same one people have had for years about traditional conferences: too little time for Q&A, discussion, and too little time to think about the presentations before the Q&A starts. They did try to fix that a little bit: in exchange for filling out a general meeting proxy, we got cute Oracle USB drives with the meeting abstracts and some of the papers on them, so in theory we could pre-view the materials.1

Before I get to the panels, though, the biggest news out of the meeting was the formation of a new annual conference on the west coast devoted to South Asian Studies: The South Asian Studies Alliance (which I think is going to become the South Asian Studies Association, but don’t quote me on that) had its first conference about six weeks before ASPAC and was reportedly a great success. The organizers are ASPAC leaders, including board members Bill Vanderbok, Deepak Shimkhada and Ram Roy, who see the AAS as failing to attract or represent South Asian scholarship in representative numbers, and who don’t think the conference in Wisconsin is accessible enough to the bulk of South Asianists to serve their needs. ASPAC provided the seed money, and both conferences will be sharing e-ASPAC as a peer-reviewed outlet. However, SASA will be fully independent once it gets organized, not a subgroup within ASPAC or AAS. Great opportunities for scholars young and old!

Now, to the panels!

Continue reading “South Asian Studies at ASPAC”

  1. Unfortunately, many presentations didn’t go much beyond the abstracts, so after reading the abstract I was kind of bored by some of the actual presentations. Something to think about as we prepare for our January roundtable. []

Sir Christopher Bayly

Christopher Bayly, the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge, author of several books including the seminal Empire and Information: Intelligence gathering and social communication in India 1780-1870 (1996), a doyen of the Cambridge School of historiography, is now a Knight Bachelor for services to History [pdf].

I met him in Cambridge this past September and found him to be utterly nice and generous. He refused to say in public, or in private, how much my paper had sucked. For which I remain grateful. I know a number of his students who all sing his praises for his dedication to their careers and the efforts he expends on their behalf – high praise indeed.

In his comments he stated: “I regard this not only as a great personal honour but, as an historian of India, as recognition of the growing importance of the history of the non-western world.”

Hear, hear! Also, some other writer got Knighted too and people in homistan are kinda pissed about it. So, what’s new? Let’s celebrate History and historians instead. Congratulations to Sir Bayly. [HT to Arvind]

Sunday Reading for Bloomers

It is really hot out there; the White Sox are in a really bad shape; there is too much test cricket; Lahore is literally melting in 110 degree heat; after an initial good batch, the Marathon mangos are letting me down; my friends are intent on rubbing it in my face; I would like to buy a new digital camera, even though my current one is working fine; I have decided not to get the iPhone, largely because AT&T is evil incarnate; & sundry; & c.

  • Apparently, the Obama campaign ain’t all that above making quasi-racist jokes about secret interests groups and their associations with the Clinton campaign. No, it isn’t the AIPAC memo, it’s the Macaca memo [pdf]. So, what got the Obama campaign all riled up? Was it that the Clintons invested in an Indian company? Bill spoke at Cisco? Had an Indian fundraiser? The horrors never seize, no? Since Feb, I have watched Obama declare to be a different kind of politician, assert to practice a different kind of politics, but his campaign has been anything but different – rigid, aggressive and willing to demonize whomever, when it pleases them. I do not know of any outreach made by the Obama campaign in Chicago to the Muslim, Arab American or South Asian communities – which are large segments of the populations here, and around the country. Maybe they don’t need anyone besides Geffen to win the election. Or maybe the Obama campaign, to please Lou Dobbs, can get behind the Bill Clinton as India’s President campaign. Needless to say, I am hereby switching my non-vote to Mike Gravel and the only way I am switching back is if Obama learns Hindoostani. update: Obama admits campaign’s fault. Good on him.
  • Dana Priest and Anne Hull broke the Walter Reed “scandal”. Prepare for more outrage as they tell us about the psychological care afforded to Iraq War vets. If you want melancholy to go along with your anger, I remind you that there is no PTSD diagnosis for the inhabitants of Iraq, as of yet.
  • I realize now that my insistence on buying Chile Shiraz [$7 or less] was hurting French terrorists.
  • Do note the passing away of two seminal philosophers for their nations: Ramchandra Gandhi – grandson of Mohandas Gandhi – and Richard Rorty.
  • Ahmed Rashid examines the General and his best friends, noting that “for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State’s policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney’s office.” Gee. That is so uncharacteristic of this administration. But, hey, why worry all that when our experts aren’t even convinced that Pakistan can be democratic. Yessiree! I propose, as a certified Pakistan Expert (regional qualification extends from 8th century through the 21st! Fluent in three local languages!!), that the United States immediately appoint a Democracy Czar to Pakistan.
  • Sy Hersh continues to bring embarrassing stuff up. Antonio Taguba, please. Let’s move on, nation. Look over there, Clinton hugged a Sikh!
  • All snark aside, I do recommend reading James Baldwin’s letters to Istanbul.

The Outsider

moorcroft and hearseyIt has been all-petition-all-the-time at CM lately. Which is a marked contrast to my usual unflappably complacent demeanor but, if the shit really start to stink, one must light the fire [my grandfather used to say that and it sounds way better in Punjabi. Also, it makes more sense since cow-dung is used as fuel, but I am getting off the topic here…].

Anyhow, it has been a while since I promised some word of William Moorcroft – one of the adventurers in India who went ‘native’ – not in the White Mughal way rather in the White Ibn Batutta way. I came across Moorcroft while reading the memoirs of Alexander Burnes (1805–1841) who famously charted the waters of Indus for the East India Company in 1830. In his travelogue, Burnes describes reaching Qandahar and finding the remaining possessions of the dead and buried William Moorcroft [by then a rather legendary and contentious figure in John Company’s imagination]. Reading over the catalogue of Moorcroft’s possessions – a unique blend of botanical, medicinal, veternarian, and litrary works – I decided to pursue the thread of this amazing life, for just one moment, and in that pursuit came across other indelible characters – like Captain Hyder Young Hearsey.
Continue reading “The Outsider”

Boycott DePaul

Finkelstein’s tenure denial rankles badly those of us determined to keep our visions of activist-scholarship intact in our academic careers. Are we to remain hostage to invested groups turning the screws on the ‘controversy-shy’ administration? Never. DePaul students and faculty are rallying around to protest and being threatened with expulsions and arrests – this cannot be tolerated.

Finkelstein is not the first academic to be denied tenure for holding beliefs contrary to the mainstream [liberal or conservative] and he won’t be the last. I am also certain that he will find a new home, soon. However, we must, as academics, make sure that the pressure we exert on the University administrations to respect academic freedoms be equal or greater than the pressure exerted by groups to silence such voices from public discourses. You can read some letters being written to Finkelstein and judge the amount of outrage on this decision. I am posting below a letter being circulated by faculty across the US and international academic circles … if you wish to be a signatory, please click and send an email. I have and I intend on following through.

Mr. John Simon, Chair
Board of Trustees
DePaul University

Dear Mr. Simon:

We, the undersigned, deplore the process used by the administration of DePaul University to deny tenure to Professor Norman Finkelstein and Professor Mehren Larudee. We are prepared to take the necessary steps to make sure that DePaul, as an institution, is held accountable for its violations of the principles of academic freedom.

Professor Finkelstein’s scholarship has made him internationally known as an expert in his field. His five books have been published by universally-respected presses and have been translated into eighteen languages. Such an intellectual output, by a scholar applying for tenure at the level of associate professor, is far and beyond even the most stringent requirements of the most elite institutions in the United States. His teaching, as even his detractors acknowledge, has received the highest praise from his students and colleagues. His qualifications for tenure and promotion at an institution such as DePaul should not even be open to question.

The process by which Professor Finkelstein was denied tenure represents a clear violation of the principles of faculty governance and of the most basic principles of academic freedom. Professor Finkelstein,s departmental committee voted 9 to 3 in support of granting him tenure, and a five-member college-level personnel committee then voted unanimously in favor of tenure. These were the key decision-makers, and their preference was clear. It was only at this point that the dean of Professor Finkelstein,s college wrote a memorandum recommending against tenure, on the basis of a consideration that was not even a stated part of the tenure process.

The case of Professor Larudee is equally distressing. Professor Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies, was unanimously approved for tenure by her departmental committee and by the college-level personnel committee, and was even supported by the same college dean who opposed Professor Finkelstein’s tenure. We fear that the only reason why Professor Larudee was subsequently denied tenure, even after receiving overwhelming approval from the relevant faculty committees, was due to her outspoken support of Professor Finkelstein.

“Academic freedom is alive and well at DePaul”? President Dennis Holtschneider declared, as part of the official statement announcing the decision to deny tenure to Professor Finkelstein. But it is not for the DePaul administration to make such a judgment; it is, in fact, the larger academic community, of which we are all members, which must judge the state of academic freedom at DePaul. In our judgment, DePaul is in grave violation of the principles of academic freedom.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, declare our intention to hold the administration of DePaul University accountable for its violations of academic freedom. Accordingly, we hereby pledge:

1. We will refuse to participate in, attend, or support any conferences or other activities sponsored by DePaul University, and will encourage our colleagues to follow suit.

2. We will, to the best of our abilities, prevent our institutions from collaborating with DePaul University on any conferences or other activities, and will urge our institutions to refuse to take part in any joint activities or exchange programs with the university.

3. We will urge our colleagues and students not to apply for any academic programs or job openings at DePaul University.

4. We will urge those professional bodies and associations of which we are members to censure DePaul University, and to apply the appropriate penalties against the institution.

5. We will contact the alumni of DePaul University and urge them to withhold contributions from the university.

It should be noted that none of these actions are aimed at individual faculty members or students at DePaul. Indeed, many members of the faculty and the student body have consistently supported Professors Finkelstein and Larudee. The decision to deny tenure in these cases was the result of a completely undemocratic process that undermined the principles of faculty governance and academic freedom at DePaul, and our actions are an attempt to move the university administration to honor these important principles.

The university administration must begin a process by which the original faculty decisions to grant tenure to Professors Finkelstein and Larudee are honored. This process must also insure that such violations of academic freedom are not repeated. Under these circumstances, we will be happy to once again consider DePaul University as an institution that honors the important principles to which we are all dedicated. Until such a time, however, we urge our colleagues, students, and other members of the intellectual community to cease business as usual with DePaul University.


(To sign this letter, please send an email with your name and any academic, professional, or other affiliation to) The Undersigned