Lahore Fragments: Colonial Contradictions and their afterlife

DR. SHAHNAZ ROUSE, Professor of Sociology, Sarah Lawrence College, New York and Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies (GIDS) gave a talk on "Lahore Fragments: Colonial Contradictions and their afterlife".
The talk primarily focused on Lahore in relationship to its present and its colonial past. It also focused on knowledge production, history and memory.  It highlighted how people involved in their everyday lives play a vital role in history making both as object and subject.
In her talk Shahnaz Rouse suggested that history conceptualized is never settled but always in the process of becoming, ever present.  She gave example of literary theorist Homi Bhabha’s work that also insisted on the “active relationship between ‘objective’ world (that which is passed down to us) and subjective engagement with it. The former, however, only ‘appears’ as objective – solely because we were not present at its generative moments. Our world(s) then – even when we inhabit the same space – are socially and historically produced through language, myth making, reason and emotion as a combined constant in our everyday lives and lived experience. Normative social sciences still resist such recognition”.  
The late 19th and early 20th century witnessed the evolution of modernist thought, which to date is considered a progressive form of thinking based on scientific knowledge and practical investigations. However, its reductionist approach of promoting the ‘objective truth’ can be seen as superficial at best. Focusing on objective realities based on empiricism by recognizing only hard evidence, disregards the presence of experience, which is wholly subjective and not easy to generalize. Therein lies a contradiction between objective, scientific principles with subjective difference that is central to the formation of identity in all historical settings, be it pre-colonial, colonial or capitalist.
The talk was designed to point out how historical research needs to be conducted. Also, the purpose was to open up questions as to how, where, and how this happened, and it does so through a series of snap shots, exemplary archival cases. The idea remains that everyone’s experience and approach to looking at similar things is different, people tend to have different perceptions of same events. This is to suggest that at any given time (in past or present) not everyone imagines any city, including Lahore, identically.
One of the insights shared in the talk was that we should not ignore the fact that subjective biases play a role in the process of trying to reach the objective truth. However, this selectivity in trying to make sense of the world can be minimized by going beyond disciplinary barriers both in thought and in practice.