Habib University hosted its 7th YOHSIN lecture titled, “Clash of Visions in the Third World: Are We All Dreaming of Gatecrashing the Colonisers’ World?”

The YOHSIN lecture series is Habib University’s flagship event which brings global scholars to Pakistan. Some of the renowned scholars hosted by Habib University in the past include Dr. Vali Nasr, Iranian-American academic, Dr. Maria Klawe, President Harvey Mudd College, Deborah Fitzgerald, Dean of MIT and Professor Noam Chomsky, American linguist and philosopher.

This year, Professor Ashis Nandy, declared as one of the 100 most intellectual people alive today by Foreign Policy magazine, delivered Habib University’s 7th YOHSIN Lecture.

The online lecture by the postcolonial thinker was viewed by intellectuals, educationalists, socialists and journalists from all over around the world and turned out to be a national twitter trend.

Dr. Nandy spoke about the intellectual failures in regards to postcolonialism, particularly how it appears as a racialized project that we have blindly internalized. People’s views are adopted and shaped by Western intellectual canons, he argued, which robs them off their autonomy. This, he said, is even the case with postcolonial studies.

He identified a number of distinctive features of modern colonialism, especially the colonialism that came after the Spanish empire which was solely interested in looting, and was not racial in character. With the British and French empires, the conquest of indigenous peoples was justified in the name of a selfless moral duty, also famously referred to as the White Man’s Burden. The Enlightenment, he argued, was racist and closely linked to the so-called “civilizing mission”.

The coexistence of different sacred cosmologies with science was possible in our part of the world, but not in the Western hemisphere, which was totalitarian, he remarked.

Dr. Nandy lamented the fact that modern colonialism has not been examined seriously by postcolonial scholars. He spoke in-depth about the distinctiveness of the modern nation-state. “The nation-state,” he pointed out, “is not given to us by birth. Nationalism is an ideology, which demands an exclusive allegiance to your state. Nationalism demands that you adopt your state’s enemies as your own enemies.”

Dr. Nandy concluded his lecture by warning the audience of the social ills of accepting the nation-state at the cost of culture, language, ethnicity and identity. Alluding to recent state-transformative efforts in our region, he said, “Configuring a different kind of state will portend a dark future for countries in South Asia if we are not careful.”

Author

Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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