The Other Truth: Modernity and the Relation to Alterity in the Pakistani University

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Just as the philosophical roots of diversity lie in alterity, so pluralistic attitudes, or a celebration of diversity, likewise stem from the ability to process alterity. However, a public’s relationship to alterity, or the Otherness of the Other, is as much a historical and historicised attitude as are the institutions which engender and normalise such a relation. The aim of this paper is to elicit some features and implications of this relationship to alterity as it is evidenced in Pakistan. The first part of this paper thus reports on an examination of the case of the Pakistani University, and particularly the speech-acts of a leading University, to understand the epistemological relationship to alterity in the context of Heidegger’s understanding of truth. The second part of the paper argues that not only does the Pakistani University, and by extension society (following Derrida and Kamuf), demonstrate an inability to process Otherness and hold it in a relationship to the Self, but also that this singular attitude is a fundamental aspect of the modernity constructed in the colonial project. The third part of the paper relates the earlier epistemological analysis to the ethical implications of this ‘brand’ of modernity, drawing in particular upon the work of Levinas and ethics as first philosophy. In conclusion, I indicate some manifestations of this inability to live with necessary diversity, most notably with respect to what is commonly called ‘Islamic extremism’ or ‘fundamentalism’.

Keywords: Alterity, Modernity, Culture, University, Pakistan
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Ali Qadir

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication and Cultural Studies, National College of Arts
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan

I am engaged in teaching and research in the emerging field of Cultural Studies in the only such department in Pakistan. NCA is the country’s leading arts education institution, and the only one in the public sector. My research work has focussed on constructions of modernity and their philosophical and cultural implications in Pakistan. I am now increasingly philosophically unpacking the notion of multiple modernities in the historicised context of Pakistan, which incorporates elements of postcolonialism and religion. I have been examining the institution of higher education in Pakistan. However, this work is now leading to a rounder understanding of the phenomenon known as 'radical Islam' or 'fundamentalism', whose impacts are being (violently and non-violently) felt nationally and globally.

Ref: D08P0295