MA in History

Tariq Khan, 2013

Tariq Khan

Why did you decide to pursue an M.A. in History?

Supporting emancipatory social movements is one of my top priorities. Many of the people who I admire for their contributions to revolutionary movements – people such as Peter Kropotkin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Franz Fanon, and Angela Davis among many others – were/are scholars. I was most attracted to sociology and history because radical social theory and “history from below” serve an important purpose in causes for social justice. I decided to pursue history when I realized that most of the scholarly work that I found interesting and useful to the movements I cared about was historical.

What was your most rewarding class? Why?

That’s a tough one to answer. There were a lot of great classes and great professors, and I hate to have to pick only one. Dr. Meredith Lair – whose Vietnam War class I took – is quite brilliant and challenged dominant narratives by exploring not just two, but several sides of a story; and I enjoyed Dr. Michael O'Malley’s Gilded Age & Progressive Era class because he asked big, interesting, and creative questions, and he effectively made the history we studied relevant to the present.

What are you doing now?

I am currently a PhD student in History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

How has the M.A. program helped you with your career or your personal interests?

The MA program at GMU led me to the PhD program I am in now, and the major paper I did for my MA led directly to the research I am doing now.

Any career advice you would give to students in the program?

Be suspicious of all “respectable” authority, including – and especially – the authority of your own institutions. Don’t sacrifice ethics or morality for access and prestige. Know that scholars can be – and often are – complicit in the perpetuation of systems of oppression, or they can use their knowledge, skills, and institutional access to challenge systems of oppression. Read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil to see how harmful “just doing your job,” “just obeying the law,” or just fulfilling your technical function within the system without thinking critically about the system itself can be. Read Noam Chomsky’s “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” to keep yourself honest and courageous.

Tell us something that people would be surprised to know about you.

I keep bees and am fascinated with apiculture.