The first academic activity I attended was a study circle at Nasir Bagh. This is also one of those activities which are not one-time events. The study circles are meant to be held on a regular basis to let the intellectual capacity of the group keep up with the practical. The circle I attended was a part of a weekly radical seminar series which was aimed at arranging lectures to understand some monumental texts of the core radical philosophy. Hegel, Fanon, Deleuze, Foucault, Marx, Badiou, all of them were discussed under the shade of a tree. The two circle I attended were led by Mr. Shehzad Amjad, a professor of philosophy at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.
The two lectures were on on “Natural and Social Philosophy: Fanon and Political Will” and “Being and Event: Alain Badiou”. The lectures on Fanon was explained with a brilliantly put relevance with the kind of structures we find ourselves in. It took everyone, just like Fanon arguably would have wanted, to a voyage back into the past, critically evaluating the political and socio-economic evolution that gave the society the shape and nature which persists today, along with the consciousness consequently produced as an outcome. This was complemented by an equally deep insight into the need and possible ways to build a resistance that personifies of the political will. It was in this lecture that I got an idea of the name I could give to this project as Shehzad Amjad said, in a manner that reflected his brilliant oratory skills, “The past isn’t only what happened. It is also, what you could have been.” This also helped me in naming this project. To look into a past that could have happened.
By far, these were two of the best experiences of my life. These circles were built on two principles you don’t get to see much in public educational institutions today: students taking an initiative for themselves, and professors discussing philosophy in a way it should be. I don’t see such intense politics discourse in many campuses today, perhaps one of the reasons why the educational quality has died down. What you see in public institutions is a learning environment exactly opposite to this. Firstly, you don’t see any real philosophy being taught, and if we get lucky to find something like this being imparted, you see teachers lacking intellectual content to an extent that the student never gets to understand and rationalize the text. This is the reason why it wasn’t difficult to witness seeds of a new alternative thought in such gatherings. The lectures had a deep political relevance, were built upon a constructive critique of the system and were brilliantly delivered.
It was after these circles that I realized the need to go in and talk to these students individually to identify what their view of the world is. I met them at seminars, campuses, hostels, etc. and talked to them about not only their grievances with the status quo but also about the kind of society they wish to live in. It helped me in seeing through the conditions that make them indulge in political activity. I had seen, to some extent, the work they are trying to do. The question now was to see what had driven to be where they are.
October 8, 2017