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Dissertation Workshops 2012

AIPS—HEC Dissertation Workshop on History, Political Science & Education

Islamabad, September 19-21, 2012

The overarching theme of the workshop was Debating/Educating Pakistan: Alternative Conceptions.”

The AIPS, established in 1973, is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization whose mission is to encourage and support research on issues relevant to Pakistan and the promotion of scholarly exchange between the United States and Pakistan. AIPS aims to facilitate scholarship within academe in Pakistan in various disciplines through the holding of dissertation workshops. This dissertation workshop was for doctoral students in history, political science and education whose research is focused in part on education in Pakistan. It was led by the eminent scholar, Dr. Matthew Nelson, Reader in Politics in the Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, with the participation of Pakistani scholar Dr. Abdul Rauf, Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar.

This workshop brought together M.Phil and doctoral students in Pakistan who are developing dissertation proposals or are in early phases of research or dissertation writing and who seek to develop richer, more subtle or robust understandings of their fields. It engaged aspiring scholars and assisted them in such things as developing and reformulating research questions, placing research within theoretical contexts, facilitating the organization and structure of the dissertation, and sharing global norms of scholarship in research, writing and citation structures.

Workshop Summary by Matt Nelson, Workshop leader:

The AIPS Office in Islamabad was very pleased to host, in collaboration with Pakistan's Higher Education Commission (HEC), a very successful 3-day PhD workshop in late September.  Focusing on history and politics, the workshop was led by Dr Matthew Nelson from the Department of Politics at SOAS (London) and Dr Abdul Rauf from the Department of Political Science at the University of Peshawar.  Dr Julie Flowerday, who had recently arrived in Islamabad before beginning a nine-month stay at the University of Gujrat, joined us for the workshop and provided invaluable support as well. 

Eleven students from across Pakistan--Quaid-e-Azam and the Islamic University in Islamabad, Karachi University and Jamshoro University in Sindh, Punjab University and the University of Gujrat, and Peshawar University--met for a welcome dinner at the Islamabad Serena Hotel with representatives from the Higher Education Commission and faculty members from QAU and IIU.  This was followed by three days of intensive work focusing on the relationship between 'concepts' and 'cases', the construction of an effective literature review, and the leap from a strong research question to appropriate research methods.  Additional sessions focused on working with different types of supervisors, locating research topics focused on Pakistan within a wider universe of academic literature, and understanding the expectations of international PhD examiners.  After brief comments from the workshop leaders, each session included extensive work in small groups.  Most of the students had not met before the workshop, but the atmosphere of collegiality and serious debate was electrifying.  

A small sample of the research topics will provide a sense of current scholarly interests:  (a) the multiple dimensions of Pashtun resistance to British rule, (b) the allocation of scarce family resources to landed property litigation rather than health or education in Punjab, (b) divergent trajectories of ethnic integration on the part of Pashtuns and the Baloch, (d) the demographic drivers of urban politics in Karachi, (e) the relative importance of 'patronage' and 'policy' in Pashtun voting patterns, (f) how Pakistani parliamentarians undermined their own legitimacy during the 1970s, and (g) the drivers of Russian economic power in Central Asia.

In addition to the workshop, Dr Nelson also delivered special lectures at the University of Gujrat and Quaid-e-Azam University. A profile regarding his work will be published in [waiting for details from Wajahat Ali, who did the interview].