Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

Narrow Interdisciplinarity and the Integration of Historical and Archaeological Research in Pakistan: A Conceptual Framework

Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

Narrow Interdisciplinarity and the Integration of Historical and Archaeological Research in Pakistan: A Conceptual Framework

Article excerpt


There prevailed, for a long time, the practice of strict disciplinary compartmentalization in academia. However, the first decades of the 20th century saw voices raised for multi/trans/interdisciplinary researches. The reason behind, obviously, was the failure of the isolated disciplines to address and solve the issues and problems as they were supposed to do. Currently there is an increasing awareness about the fact and hence multi/trans/interdisciplinary approaches are fast attracting the attention of scholars and researchers. As this is truer in the cases of'neighbouring' disciplines, this paper attempts to explore the viability and need of narrow interdisciplinarity in relation to history and archaeology in the context of Pakistan. It posits that the practice is needed due, mainly, to three reasons. First; the entire human past is historical in nature. Second, historical literature and archaeological data complement each other. Third, there should be a reciprocality in terms of methods, tools, concepts and theories. In conclusion, a close collaboration between historians and archaeologists and the related departments and institutions is suggested.

'We are not students of some subject matter but students of problems. And problems may eut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline.'

(Popper 1963/2002: 88)

There are varied source materials available for the reconstruction of human history. They are historical, archaeological, anthropological, ethnological and even geological data. Since the documentary record is very scant and skimpy, other disciplines garner importance in the reconstruction of history. History and archaeology have this kind of reciprocality which is, beyond doubt, an established fact today. The rigid compartmentalization, besides sheer negligence of social sciences in Pakistan1, has added a graver dimension to the already dismal state of social and societal knowledge in the country. It is even truer in the case of the two postulated correlated disciplines dealing with human past viz. history and archaeology. This paper is an attempt to lay down a conceptual framework towards the interdisciplinary research in the context of history and archaeology in relation to the human past of Pakistan.

There prevails a generally held, but erroneous, perception in Pakistan that the disciplines of history and archaeology are poles apart (personal observation). It is believed'that history stops at the point where man leaves no written record of his activity and that thenceforth the field of archaeology steps in' (Rafi Ullah 2009). But it is not so difficult to argue against this sharp dividing line between the two sister disciplines. This argument revolves around the correlation between history and archaeology in the framework of narrow interdisciplinarity. First, as human past is historical in nature, archaeology therefore falls within the purview of history.'Hence', as S. C. Malik observes,'the limitations of the fields of archaeology and History are only a matter of academic convenience and have very little to do with the real situation' (Malik 1968: 41). Second, there is a subtle interplay between the historical literature and archaeological material in relation to the historical period of human history. Third, as archaeology and its development have contexts, archaeologists need an understanding of history as a discipline. This fact requires to be appreciated in the context of Pakistan. Keeping in view this need, this paper works out an intimate correlation between history and archaeology with the stipulation that the complementary dimensions of both the disciplines are useful concerning the study of cultural, religious, political and economic history of Pakistan.

Ironically, history2 and archaeology have still failed to obtain the privileged status of science. The problem has a profound colonial context. The introduction of social sciences was a slow process in the Indian subcontinent'particularly in areas now comprising Pakistan compared to rest of India' (Inayatullah 1989/2001: 2). …

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