We live in a society where the traditional systems of knowledges have undergone a transformation with the arrival of modern technological apparatus. This technological shift on one hand has succeeded in challenging the old age values and beliefs earlier governing the knowledge production, its dissemination and consumption, on the other hand it has failed to stifle the hegemony which a few disciplines enjoy over others.
Ever since their dawn, social sciences have been put to various tests in order to prove their metal in comparison to natural sciences. The commonly held perceptions across borders and nations had time and again kept social sciences at a pedestal which is inferior to the pedestal held by the natural sciences.
The scenario is no different in Kashmir, where the leading campus of Kashmir University is still struggling to become a space that encourages social sciences the way it encourages other disciplines. This written understanding is aimed to discuss a few of such points which have pushed social sciences in Kashmir University to a back foot.
It gives a call for the emancipation of already strangulated social sciences; such that, they may be given their voice that ultimately shall speak for the people and society in this conflict zone.
Educational institutions like Universities and colleges can no longer be regarded as providing all that the future adult needs by way of preparation for life and livelihood.
Institutional knowledge derived from universities cannot be regarded as the penultimate source of learning but, what they are able to provide must contribute to a flexible mind and outlook, such that the inevitable changes in life do not come as a trauma and shock.
Social Sciences contribute a lot in building such an outlook that not only analysis 'changes' in society but also provides a critical lens that perceives every change through the prism of how, why and when? Institutional spaces like Kashmir university needs such a prism by the very nature of being an institution that deals with the how, why and when of all the changes and disruptions taking place in this zone of conflict.
However, in contrast to universities like JNU, Delhi University, Hyderabad Central University and IIT's, Kashmir University has had a weak social science tradition, resulting in producing very little significant research in this field. In Kashmir University, the social sciences seem to occupy the lowest place in academic and career the hierarchy of disciplines.
One reason can be that the social sciences are not thought to be as creative and profitable as other subjects like marketing, business etc. In this perspective, challenges for social sciences in Kashmir University are multiple.
The popular perception among students of social science of Kashmir is that it is a non-utility subject. From the initial stages of schooling, it is tragedy of commons as students are fed with the notion that the natural sciences are superior to the social sciences, and are the domain of 'bright' students. Therefore, there is need to emphasise that the social sciences are essential to provides an social, cultural, and analytical skills required to adjust to an increasingly interdependent world, and to deal with political and economic realities.
Most of us think that people affiliated with social science are the book-keepers of the soul as their image has been visualised as teaching/vying with the values and morals all the time.
They are involved at the level of generating data, compiling facts, monitoring programs, and evaluating results; they are not central figures in the policy process or in decisions affecting future policy. There will be a deepening involvement of social science experts with the formation of practical social policies or reforms.
Social scientists conduct studies to shed light on human behaviours and often simply to uncover knowledge rather than to spur action, many people use sociological studies to help improve people's lives.
In that sense, conducting a research comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Research is systematically finding new and exciting ways to think about reality, be it in the act of explicating an obscure phenomenon and the important part is to learn something, to create something previously unthought of and that's all the reason any research needs.
Knowledge is a powerful tool that can be used toward positive change. And while quality is a major issue and there is a growing concern about the quality of research in social sciences.
While the scale and range of social science research in the universities like JNU, DU and other prominent institutions have been expanding and are commendable, Paradoxically the nature and scope of social science in university of Kashmir and quality of research output, as well as its contribution to a better understanding of socio-economic processes and shaping of public policy is widely perceived to have fallen short of expectations and also do not commensurate with the resources spent on them. Research centres and departments have failed to enhance the ability among students to explain the social world and thus improve the understanding of social sciences in it.
Science is about understanding and coping with change in the natural world, while social science is concerned with change in the society. The last 50 years witnessed an increasing importance of science and technology to unprecedented levels in human history, and with impacts at all levels of society.
We know today that it is not possible to isolate research activities from the social context in which they are conducted; this is reflected in the growing scientific basis of the culture of contemporary societies, as well as by the increasing societal involvement of researchers and their organizations. Social sciences are confronting many serious problems but the need is to discover them one by one, this can be overcome by connecting scholars, students and faculty so that discourses have wide reach.
This should be substantiated by providing free space to the researchers that enhances their critical thinking
There is opportunity for social science experts to take part in the changing world. The accurate information in the right hands, minds and hearts can cause wonders and miracles if used properly to be worked. Students and Scholars of social sciences can change the world.
Because only a true social scientist can reflect at every aspect of society both at micro and macro level by using sociological imagination. It is critically important because this is the frontier on which freedom of mind is first tested and then decided. To some people social science is reform.
Social scientists are not only indispensable towards understanding of political, economic and general development processes and their consequences on society.
They have role in framing policies plans to solve some social or social-related problems and the potential conflicts but in Kashmir academicians and social scientists are being excluded from government affairs and other important decision making processes the reason is that university are unable to produce quality social experts.
It seems Kashmir University is more science centric and less social science centric. Also the prominent and prestigious posts are mostly occupied and dominated by faculty from science and allied subjects. School of biological and natural sciences are enjoying 'higher statuses' and legitimacy.
Social science research is no different than research in the physical sciences in that it provides new knowledge that can alter the socio-economic and political welfare of our state .Most young scholars from social-science are having a more difficult time getting research in terms of grants and other academic opportunities.
It is evident that social and political activism is the essence of social sciences but in our campus the culture of the same is yet develop to the satisfication and it's considered as the abyss which haunts you anytime you think about it.
In terms of benefit to society, the social sciences in Kashmir University have traditionally been held to lag behind in comparison to the natural sciences, engineering and medicine. But research in the social sciences and humanities is of particular relevance to the transition process. It can also help address challenges and identify possible solutions in areas essential to a country's political stability and socio-economic development, such as inter-ethnic relations, protection of minorities, nation building, good governance and state-building. Social sciences act as breathing apparatus for a particular society but the culture of social sciences is headed down a dead end toward mere scientism, becoming a second-rate version of the hard sciences.
We need to recognise and support a different kind of social science research – and so should those who demand accountability from researchers. Social sciences in Kashmir University are still in dark ages. This school failed to emancipate students as well as scholars of campus vis-à-vis experts of social sciences failed to construct the image of social sciences in Kashmir University this in turn leads in decline of a social science tradition.
We should promote value rationality over epistemic rationality, in order to arrive at social science that matters, we should promote social sciences that are strong as beating an observational path where knowledge production is made more meaningful and people oriented.
The social sciences encompass diverse concerns of society and include a wide a range of content, drawn from the disciplines of history, geography, political science, economics and sociology. The selection and organisation of material into a meaningful social science curriculum, enabling students to develop a critical understanding of society, is therefore a challenging task.
The possibilities of including new dimensions and concerns are immense especially in view of the student's own life experiences,given the limitations of the traditional method which school of social sciences has followed i,e of being highly teacher centric, focussing on rote memory , distancing students from using their cognitive abilities; now it is the time to follow interdisciplinary approach and integration of concepts, theories, techniques, and perspectives from two or more disciplines to advance fundamental understanding to solve problems.
Social Science teaching can achieve this by promoting children's ability to take initiative to critically reflect on social issues that have a bearing on the creative coexistence between individual good and collective good. This inclination of critical temperament should be transferred to children in their primary school days which would set them for the ideas which they might confront at the higher academic discourses
School of social sciences of Kashmir university shouldprovide students diversity opportunities for their academic mobility byadopting the academic culture of universities like JNU, DU and other reputedinstitutions. It is important to reinstate the significance of the socialsciences by not only highlighting its increasing relevance for a job in therapidly expanding service sector, but by pointing to its indispensability inlaying the foundations for an analytical and creative mindset it will work onlywhen boundaries of disciplines are opened up.
Mir Suheel Rasool is Senior Research Fellow at Department of Sociology University of Kashmir.