The obstacles to Pakistani scholarship

Today we concluded the first week of the Ethnographic Methods Workshop at Lahore College for Women University – and day 3 of a campus-wide internet outage. You can imagine the chaos this entails: the amazing team at the DFDI (Department of Faculty Development and Internationalisation) cannot receive and process the readings, handouts, and powerpoints that I email to them (over slow internet connections). The workshop must, however, go on. I make split-second decisions on how to run the workshop when I realize that handouts will not materialize and the planned activities cannot happen. My Western-oriented sense of time, punctuality, and organization are perpetually challenged. To serve here is exhilarating, but not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for those who dream of first-world chauffeured luxury in an exotic locale.

I was told, for example, that typically, research resources comprise JSTOR and maybe a few books. Yet in the course of the qualitative research workshop last year and the ethnographic research workshop this week, I heard critical and engaged questions that spoke of knowledge, ¬†understanding, ability, and talent of the best calibre. Still, how much research can you do if JSTOR is the only major database you can access, and the books in the library are old and outdated? Can’t EBSCO, Project Muse, and others be available to institutions of higher education in Pakistan for free or for less? Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, U of Chicago press, – how about it?

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