Two students from Northwestern University in Qatar will have the opportunity this summer to further their research thanks to grants provided by the university. Northwestern’s Office for Undergraduate Research and the Buffet Institute have provided Basmah Azmi and Meher Matab financial support to fund their research project on Pakistani identity, which will be conducted in London.

Mehtab and Azmi, students in NU-Q’s journalism programme, plan to using the grants to research the cultural assimilation of Pakistani migrants in the United Kingdom and its implications on identity.

NU-Q’s Dean and CEO Everette E. Dennis said:

Northwestern considers research skills to be an important part of its students’ academic education to support these initiatives we are committed to assisting students in connecting them to the resources necessary to follow their research interests.’

The grants will allow Mehtab and Azmi to travel to Great Britain to conduct qualitative-research on generations of British–Pakistanis who have lived in the UK since the country’s separation from India in 1945.

Research opportunities that are available to Northwestern students in Evanston are also offered to NU-Q students, which was revealed to the two students following a meeting with the director of undergraduate research who visited Doha earlier this year.

The students say that they were fascinated by the very concept of how strong cultural identity can be for diaspora. Their research process started with the simple idea of identity and its fluid nature.

Mehtab said:

We realised at that meeting that all the opportunities that are available to the students in Evanston are available to us.’

‘We found that Pakistanis who migrated right after the India-Pakistan partition and had no real sense about Pakistan as a country, would clearly identify themselves as British-Pakistanis. We wanted to understand what it meant to be British-Pakistani.’

Mehtab and Azmi say that their curiosity about cultural assimilation stems from the current European migrant crisis.

Azmi said:

We are curious about what it means to hold on to two cultural identities at the same time.’

The students competed with 322 applications for the grant from the undergraduate research office and attributed their success to the guidance they received from NU-Q faculty Ibrahim Abusharif and Christopher Sparshott.

Amir Khan Exclusive Interview

Azmi added:

They asked us questions that helped us think deeply about how our experiences and knowledge could give us an edge in the competition.’

Meher and Azmi are Pakistani and speak Urdu, which will allow them to conduct the oral-history project in the local language, which they consider to be most comfortable for their subjects.

Mehtab said:

Cultural assimilation can’t be based on or statistics or facts you find in a book, it’s an experience — and we want to study and present it as that.’

Mehtab and Azmi will spend two-months conducting interviews and capturing the everyday experiences of British-Pakistanis; their findings will be presented on an interactive website when they complete their research.