History Minor

Modernity is a historical machine: it produces history at an ever-accelerating pace. Historical inquiry is therefore essential to understanding and surviving our present. The past forty years have witnessed a broad historical turn across the human sciences, and history enjoys extraordinary prestige in the academy as a field and as a mode of inquiry. At Habib, history is regarded as an essential component of a Liberal Arts education – it sits at the top of the Habib Liberal Core Forms of Thought and a broadly historical approach is shared by faculty regardless of disciplinary affiliation across the majors and minors of our School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. A pronounced and critical historical consciousness and sensibility is, indeed, one of the distinctive marks of a Habib education that a minor in History can further cultivate and hone.

Pedagogically, the aim of the minor is to awaken the student’s curiosity about the plurality of pasts that shape our present and to nurture the critical thinking, research, and writing skills that are essential for historical study. The minor will teach students to identify, understand, and critically analyze historical change and difference, as well as the legacies, conscious or unconscious, that each generation inherits from its past, and the many perspectives and relations one can have vis-à-vis those legacies.

Specific emphasis will be given to the shaping of South and Central Asia and the greater Muslim world, the impact of European colonization, and the postcolonial legacies to be found across the developing world. In terms of kinds of history, faculty have strengths and offer courses in global history, intellectual history, history of material culture (e.g., architectural and numismatic history), religious history, European history, and history of the postcolonial world.

The cognitive qualities of complexity, rigour, ability to recognise contingency and imagine alternatives, as well as sensitivity to change and transformation in the midst of continuity – all of which are characteristic of the historical approach – make historical study attractive both for graduate school across the human and social sciences, as well as for employers across a range of sectors of the economy.

Learning Outcomes of the Minor in History

Students with a minor in History will be able to:

  • Apply methods from transnational, comparative, and global history to appreciate the interconnectedness of histories of various parts of the world
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how individuals, societies, and events outside Europe have contributed to world history
  • Express themselves intelligently about the causal factors behind historical change over time and across different regions of the world
  • The ability to sense and be sensitive to, as well as critically analyse, the historically crucial role of conceptual and discursive shifts and transformations across historical mentalities and spaces
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the historical roots of contemporary world affairs
  • Conduct historical research and craft arguments that resonate with diverse audiences
  • Critically approach both primary and secondary sources in European and non-European languages
  • Navigate historiographical debates, historical methodologies, and interpretive frameworks

History Minor Requirements

  • A minimum of 20 credit hours is required
  • The 200-level course, The Making of Modern World Religions, is required
  • A minimum of two courses at the upper (300 or 400) level are required

Students may choose to do an upper-level independent study over one or two semesters. Its topic and plan of studies must be drawn up in consultation with the faculty member supervising the study and approved by the program’s Board of Studies. Independent studies must be approved, and the Office of the Registrar notified by submission of the approved Independent Study form no later than the end of the Add/Drop course period of the semester in which the study is to be undertaken.

Free electives (but not program required courses) cross-listed as History in the major programs may be used to fulfil minor requirements. Students may count one course towards both the History minor and a Liberal Core requirement.

Course Descriptions

Core 102 What is Modernity
No one in the medieval world thought they were ‘medieval.’ The belief that we live in a distinct period of world-history – that of ‘modernity’ – sets us apart from all premodern people. It is a defining aspect of who we are, essential to our modern sense of ourselves. It is thus imperative to the task of understanding both ourselves and our world, imperative to the task of thoughtful self-cultivation assigned to us by Habib University’s pedagogical charter of Yohsin, to ask the question: What is it to be modern? What is modernity?

The interrogation and investigation of modernity is an essential dimension of Habib University’s Liberal Core in its pursuance of a strenuously universalist and critical humanities and social sciences curriculum.

Our ‘modernity’ is the very air we breathe. It encompasses, at an ever-gathering pace, all aspects of our lives. This is why the question of modernity has been a central concern across the range of disciplines and fields of the arts, humanities, and social sciences throughout the modern period. This course will address the most critical and essential elements of our global and regional modernity today, modernity in our time and context. Beginning with an investigation of the conditions of emergence of this unique world historical identity, we then turn to the historical emergence and formation of key structures and features of the modern in the following domains: political modernity; economic modernity; modernity and ecology; and modernity and religion. By the end of the semester the historical character and specificity of these foundational spheres of our present will be visible.

CLS/HIST 200: The Making of Modern World Religions
As a requirement for the History and Religious Studies minors within CLS, this course provides students with an introduction to five world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam) from the perspective of theology, history, and lived religion. Students will explore how the processes of modernity since the 19th century have refashioned these faith traditions.

The course opens with a survey of theories and methods in the study of religion, from the 19th century to the present. Students will interrogate how the categories of religion, belief, and praxis have been approached from the perspective of several key disciplines in the social sciences, theology, and the humanities – ranging from the works of Tyler and Frazer, Eliade, Marx, and Freud to post-colonial theorists. The course further explores, from a historical perspective, the question of how religion interfaces with modernity; questioning the degree to which modernity has played a part in the construction of religion, and vice versa. The course then turns to the politics of comparison, by looking at transformations in the study of comparative religion, as it has emerged from Western European colonial and missionary projects to the present day. Students will consider the evolution of epistemological frameworks for comparative religious inquiry, and their limitations.

CLS/HIST 201: Pakistan and Modern South Asia
For the first time in its history, nation-states – including that of Pakistan – emerged in the region of South Asia in the middle of the 20th century. How did such a world-historical event come about? What has it meant for the peoples of this region? In short, what is the history of our present – what is the history of our regional modernity?

This question takes on a particular urgency in Pakistan as the region passes through the current period of crisis and change. With a significant focus on the emergence and trajectory of Indo-Muslim nationalism and the creation of Pakistan, this course will be a conspectus of the modern history of South Asia from the immediate pre-colonial historical scene, through the colonial period, including the rise of regional socio-religious reform movements, anti-colonial nationalism and formal decolonization, to the Cold War and the contemporary period of accelerated transformation and turmoil.

Apart from the main outlines of the history of modern South Asia, students will also learn to place the region’s colonial modernity within the larger framework of modern history. Students will crucially learn to identify major features of the colonial economy, politics and society under which – especially after the Great Rebellion of 1857 – regional religious and other social reform movements emerged, nationalisms formed, and the dramatic transformation of regional languages and traditions took place, processes that continue into the present.

They will learn to see contemporary conflicts, ideologies, identities and structures as specific to the modern period rather than as natural cultural expressions, and they will begin to see regional cultures and societies themselves as historical entities.

CLS/HIST 202: Modern Middle East
This course provides an introduction to the complex political, economic, and social changes that have created and shaped the Middle East from the mid-18th century to present, covering the region from Iran to North Africa. In addition to contextualizing current events, the course also introduces students to historiographic debates and methodology, interpretive frameworks, and critical analysis of primary and secondary sources. Lectures and readings also bring the history of the Middle East in dialogue with surrounding regions.

This course treats both the ‘Middle East’ and ‘modernity’ as problematic and contested terms, and problematizes civilizational rise and decline paradigms. Instead, students are encouraged to explore the possibility of multiple indigenous modernities within the Middle East, and to consider the vast array of internal responses to colonialism and western notions of modernity emerging from this region.

CLS/HIST 203: The Intellectual History of Esoteric Traditions in Islam and related Faiths
This course builds upon the trajectory of Hikma 1 and Hikma 2. It explores the various practitioner methods traditionally used in Oriental and Islamic philosophy and spirituality, which are today mostly lost to us due to Modernity. It will, as opposed to the Hikma courses that dwell on theory and metaphysics, demonstrate to the student the actual methods of attaining the various ‘truths’ so keenly articulated in the Core. The course will provide the student in-depth knowledge of old esoteric practices, starting from their earliest evolution at the dawn of human civilization, and later as found in medieval texts by known thinkers, including al-Biruni, amongst others. Content will occasionally be complemented by the dying contemporary knowledge of these sciences-components of which have nevertheless persevered in this part of the world. The course will examine the various uses of esoteric sciences in our tradition, including in architecture and medicine. It will help the student to understand and come to terms with the richness and plurality of Islamic spirituality hands on, and to learn to appreciate it as a modern-as opposed to instinctively rejecting it. Our modern rejection of our lost esoteric heritage is one of the reasons youth are driven to revivalist puritanical trends in modern Islam, which eventually lead to militancy.

CLS/HIST 204: Medieval Islamic History
This course would be a religious studies companion to Prof. Naqvi’s “What is Modernity” and would explore the Christian Tradition in its various forms (Catholic and Eastern) before the rise of Modernity. Emphasis will be placed on the roots of Modernity in Protestantism and the effects of Modernity on both Catholicism and Orthodoxy especially the French and Russian revolutions and the responses to these by both churches. Key concepts of the Christian tradition will be addressed as well as the fundamental role Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism have placed in shaping much of the arts and literature as well as political concepts we are so familiar with today.

CLS/HIST 205: The pre-Islamic History of the Indus Region
Envisaged as one of two courses that seek to plug the gaps in Pakistani satae history, this course will deal in depth with the pre-Islamic history of the region that today comprises Pakistan. The problem of exlcuvist modern Islam touted as state ideology is one of the major contributors to reglious strife both within the country amongst its populace, and on the global stage. An immersion into the rich pre-Islamic history of the region and associated faiths will open students’ minds up to an ancient heritage that is lost upon most Pakistanis, and challenge the myth that the country was founded as a result of the Umayyad Invasion of 712 CE. The course will initially deal with the Indus valley and the Vedic Era, but concentrate more on the later Achaemenid (530-330 BC), Indo-Greek and Buddhist (Gandhara and Kushan), Parthian, and Hindu periods. Guest lecturers will be invited for certain weeks.

CLS/HIST 300: Urdu Literary Criticism and the Question of Modernity
In terms of sheer volume, literary criticism enjoys unusual stature in contemporary Urdu discursive production, as is readily verifiable through a cursory review of the catalogues of major Urdu publishers. What explains this remarkable space of criticism in the culture of Urdu? This course posits that literary criticism has been the primary site for the interrogation of the question of modernity in Urdu letters. The major texts and figures discussed in the course include Altaf Hussain Hali and Muhammad Hussain Azad, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kaleemuddin, Muhammad Hasan Askari and Saleem Ahmad, Sibte Hasan, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and Nasir Abbas Nayyar

CLS/HIST 301: Sacred Geographies: A Fieldwork based course in Historical Methodologies
Las Bela, Baluchistan, remains understudied, despite its pivotal location between Iran, Kalat, and Sindh, and Bela’s role as the capital city of a state, which not long ago encompassed Karachi. The recent opening of this region provides a unique opportunity to make academic forays into Bela. This course seeks to expand inter-disciplinary horizons, with the aim of designing a cross-departmental course where students can participate and design various aspects of a field-based study

CLS/HIST 302: Xias [Kung Fu Fighters], their Western Counterparts, and their Global Reinventions
The course will establish critical dialogues across cultures, disciplines, and historical periods. It will do so by contrasting the xia (kung fu fighter) in classical Chinese literature and historical records to a number of figures: to the knight in Medieval romance, to the anarchist terrorists and revolutionaries in early twentieth-century Europe and China, to the thug in gangster movies, and finally, to the xia reinvented for global kung fu cinema.

CLS/HIST 303: An Intellectual and Cultural History of Muslim Spain
It is very easy to forget, as we often do, that there existed an Arabo-Islamic state on the continent of Europe for some 800 years, making an enduring impact on European intellectual and cultural life. From the Divine Comedy and Don Quixote to French troubadours, and from art and architecture to philosophy and science, we are the heirs of the manifestations of this impact—impact that is both fascinating and complex. Called “al-Andalus” by its Muslim rulers, the career of this Iberian peninsular state began in 711 CE with Arabo-Berber incursions into southern Spain from the west of Gibralter (a corruption of the Arabic name Jabal al-Tariq), and lasted way until 1492 when Columbus sailed from here to discover the New World. Historians have called Muslim Spain “the ornament of the world” and hailed it as a model of pluralism, a diverse world where several distinct ethnic and religious communities intersected—Muslims, Jews, and Christians; and Arabs, Berbers, Europeans, and others. Our course revisits this lush phase of human history in the context of world culture.