“You Must Challenge Your Mind” – Imtiaz Ahmed

[Rickshaw has organized a conversation with Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and one of the key proponents of South Asian University. On 23rd March 2015 he discussed and responded to questions from three different themes. Here we bring you the essence of his thoughts on these three themes: What is South Asia, Idea of South Asian University and politics of higher education & the future critical thinking in the region. ]

The word India is also foreign, if you can accept that then I guess you have to wait I think more than hundred years to be easy with the word south Asia. I do not think the name is a problem. I always say it is easy to be a Bangladeshi, Nepali, Pakistani or Sri Lankan but it is always difficult to be a South Asian. This is because you have to decontexualize yourself first. This is a challenge for this university, and you must challenge your mind. Tagore tells us how to write a south Asian history, it is by bringing the human in centre. To define south Asia, you have to change your focus to human.

What you need to do is constantly deterritorialize. We became textual, but we were not textual, we are actually oral people. We need to think about this, because our civilization is oral. Authenticity came because of person, not because of institution. We have been disciplined, we need to be indiscipline. We need to bring new technologies, not only textuality. Here the challenge is to bring non-conformity. We need to be non-conformist,and then we can do something.

The heroes and heroines of our history have made us ultra-nationalist, to some extent communalist, here university has to do a lot. University can change this reality. The very idea of this university was not like that, we wanted to bring a multidisciplinary research scholarship. Original idea was to start with research and certificate courses, later bring the graduates. What is the point and differences of this university than JNU or Dhaka University? Research content is very important, otherwise it will become a college. I see no reason why we cannot start certificate courses and focus of thematic research faculties.

As an academic, I should not be a bureaucrat; this problem needs to change. Academics have the right to talk what they think, we have to think about this issue. I do not know why the students of South Asian University cannot bring and share the idea with other students entire and beyond the region. What is the problem of that? Skype and all other technologies are there. So, I think I can talk from Dhaka here in a course of IR class. It is just about an initiative.

Before all of these, we need to get rid of the misunderstanding. We need to bring the trust and proper understanding. We need a serious brainstorming in the academia. It can be about reimagining south Asia. Therefore, we have to bring all the wired people to talk about south Asia, any musician, artists, and historian and so on. We have to go back to the familiar things what we know. And it may not be happened via textbook, but through a visualization or by a documentary, where critical engagement and critical thinking can happen.



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