Lahore University of Management Sciences Lahore University of Management Sciences

LUMS and Tufts University Offer Joint Course on Islam

March 13, 2012

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This term, LUMS and Tufts University are jointly offering a course on the humanities of the global south using digital tools, titled ‘Islam on the Indian Ocean Rim’. The course is being co-taught by Dr. Ayesha Jalal at LUMS and Prof. Kris Manjapra at Tufts University. This unique initiative is being supported by a Collaborative Research Grant from the Tufts University Office of the Provost, and the Tufts University History Department.

The course is being taught, between LUMS and Tufts University, using digital tools and linking two classrooms across the world through a videolink. The course uses blended learning methods and developing a searchable online lecture database. Students at LUMS participate in a weekly ‘digital classroom’ through a live videolink with students at Tufts. Collaboration between Tufts and Lahore students will be integrated throughout the course.

The course covers the Indian Ocean inter-regional angle which is a space of vital economic and strategic importance characterised by specialised flows of capital, labour, skills and services, ideas and culture. This area once signified cosmopolitanism by Islam in particular and religiously informed universalism in general. The future balance of global power may be determined in large measure by policies of key actors in this oceanic arena and the neighbouring lands rather than in the Atlantic or the Pacific. According to Dr. Jalal the course is a component of a collaborative grant by the Tufts Provost's Office for the creation of a digital humanities teaching resource on ‘Islam on the Indian Ocean Rim.’

Elaborating on the purpose of offering this course, Dr. Jalal said, “Our aim is to bring expertise on Pakistan-India-Bangladesh relations from the fields of academia, public policy and journalism into a meaningful dialogue on past, present and future inter-regional dynamics in the Indian Ocean arena.”  According to her, the course is based on the best scholarship on Islam in South Asia, cosmopolitanism on the Indian Ocean rim, and the comparative study of politics and culture in the Indus Valley and the Gangetic delta, as the course is designed to provide a historical understanding of the challenges and possibilities of Islam in the new global moment.

She feels that LUMS and Tufts students are going to benefit greatly from this joint course. “Apart from gaining fresh historical insights about Islamic transnational networks forged in the Indian Ocean Rim and the encounter of Muslim countries with Western colonialism, students at both universities are encouraged to write weekly blogs, discuss the readings online with one another, and undertake collaborations on assignments. The varying perspectives of students in both institutions is conducive to lively debates and helps open up their minds to different ways of perceiving and thinking about issues”, shares Dr. Jalal.

She called her experience of teaching this course ‘very enjoyable and challenging technologically.’ About the role of technology in teaching the course, Dr. Jalal said that, “Thankfully, we have had excellent cooperation and support from the technology staff at both LUMS and Tufts. Occasionally there are communication difficulties, but we have found ways to get around them and, hopefully, will continue to do so.”

Sharing her plans to offer a similar course in the future, she said that it is a decision that would be taken after the end of this experimental course. Surely LUMS students will be anxiously awaiting her decision, as it is a privilege to be under the tutelage of a teacher and renowned writer and historian like Dr. Ayesha Jalal!

Dr. Jalal, is currently at teaching at LUMS as Visiting Faculty. She joined Tufts University as a tenured professor in the fall of 1999. Since 2003, she has held a joint appointment at the History Department and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and presently holds the Mary Richardson Chair. Dr. Jalal, after a double major in history and political science from Wellesley College in 1978, went to the UK where she received her doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge in 1983. She has held teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tufts University, Columbia University, and Harvard University.

She has many publications to her credit including Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, Self and Sovereignty: the Muslim Individual and the Community of Islam in South Asia, Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: a Comparative and Historical Perspective, State of Martial Rule; the Origins of Pakistan's Political Economy of Defense, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan. 

Kris Manjapra is Assistant Professor of History at Tufts University. His specialties include Intellectual History, Transnational Studies, Urban History, Oral History, Digital Humanities research. Manjapra joined Tufts Department of History in 2008 after finishing his diSBASSErtation at Harvard University, and completing a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA. He has conducted research in South Asian and German history, and is especially interested in transnational approaches. His published books are ‘M.N. Roy: Marxism and Colonial Cosmopolitanism (Delhi: Routledge 2010) and Cosmopolitan Thought Zones: South Asia and the Global Circulation of Ideas, co-edited with Sugata Bose, (Palgrave: London 2010).

Images courtesy: Tufts University