Sikholars 2012 Abstracts Announced

Since the inception of Sikholars: Graduate Sikh Conference, we have featured it here on The Langar Hall.  The past two years have been huge successes and the third year will prove no different.  A terrific agenda of evidence and research-based topics, as well as current thinking and new ideas will be presented by graduate students and professionals in various fields to challenge you and get you thinking.

As always, this year, Sikholars will offer a balance of well-known experts along with new faces and a stronger international representation.  Students and professionals will come together from all across the globe and have the opportunity to learn from each other, to interact and form personal and professional relationships and to focus on learning and spreading knowledge.

Everyone is invited to come to CSU East Bay on February 18th & 19th, 2012. For more information:

Below the fold, I’ll post the abstracts of this year’s presenters.

Bandana Kaur, Yale University/EcoSikh – Green Revolutions Revisited: Women, Biodiversity, and Folk Knowledge in Rural Punjab

The South Asian region of Punjab became the epicenter of the Green Revolution in the subcontinent, after private foundations sponsored a new package of high-yield seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, and farm machinery to increase agricultural production in developing world. The experiment was initially hailed as a success, but today poses considerable challenges for Punjab, as it rapidly loses its agrarian base.  This research examines the lived reality of the Green Revolution from the perspective of over 70 ethnographic interviews with women living in the semi-arid southern Malwa region of Punjab, an area recognized for the economic and social challenges posed to the farming community.

Bindy Kang, University of British Columbia – My Punjabi Sikh Wedding, my Canadian Homeland: An Autoethnography Exploring the Dynamics of Race

Using autoethnographic vignettes from my Punjabi Sikh wedding, geographically located in my Canadian homeland, I present my negotiation as a soon-to-be-Sikh-bride. Through the trajectory of wedding preparations, events and post-wedding discussions, I was surprised to find my wedding as a stage for new sites of racialization and gendered stereotyping. Key elements within the Sikh wedding ceremony prompted and revealed a myriad of stereotypes linked to the Sikh community within this urban, Canadian city. Identity markers for my partner and I, such as Indian attire, wearing a turban and having a beard, were significant discussion areas. This autoethnography addresses the dislocation of my dual identified-embodiment; my resistance to being a singular, ‘traditional’ identity; and the hyper-visibility of my race and gender as I became a bride intersecting my Punjabi culture, Sikh faith and Canadian homeland.

Ashveer Singh, University of Chicago – Consuming   Memory, Producing Nostalgia: Reflections on Bhangra scholarship and the North American Bhangra Circuit

Previous scholarship on the Punjabi folk dance and music genre bhangra has examined is performance and production from a cultural studies perspective.  Such scholarship examines Bhangra as a transnational phenomenon, its history as a musical movement in the United Kingdom, and various narratives of identity and multiculturalism in the US and the UK.  In this paper I review the literature onbhangra, critiquing it from an anthropological approach.  What is missing from much of research is sustained ethnographic analysis in any time or place, which I argue has concealed the strong Punjabi nationalism and identity politics evinced by North American bhangra circuit.  I submit that this circuit is the dominant producer of bhangra performances, and by its transnational electronic viewership is shaping the global imaginary of bhangra.

Jasmine Singh, UCLA – “Everything I’m Not Made Me Everything I am”: The Racialization of Sikhs in the United States

Sikhs in the United States have long endured a complicated and ambiguous racial status. Since the time of their earliest immigration to today, they have been stripped of their self-identity and “re-defined” by the racer. Sikhs have been essentialized as Hindus, marginalized, forgotten, and, in recent times, misidentified and demonized. Sikhs have experienced a unique3 process of racialization that has been largely unexplored. Understanding and investigating the racialization of Sikhs can provide a “much needed and more complete understanding of the operation of White supremacy in the subordination of each individual as well as all racialized groups.

Gurpreet Sehra, University of Manitoba – Sikh-Punjabi Identity in Flux: Examining Youth Masculinity in the Diaspora Through Art

I am questioning the construction of my identity and that of the Sikh-Punjabi diasporic community. I am particularly interested in exploring Sikh-Punjabi masculinity and the male body as a site of fetishization, in the Canadian and North American diasporas. Through the depiction of youth and hip hop-based Sikh-Punjabi masculinities, I contest and question the kind of impact these representations could have on other gendered positions, such as my own position as a Sikh-Punjabi female. Using poetic visual language, painting, performance and moving images, I intend to transform and subvert notions of masculinity and femininity. In looking more specifically and directly at constructions of Sikh-Punjabi youth masculinity, I explore conceptions of gender as related to aggression, feminization, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, cultural appropriation and power.

Harpreet Neelam – An exploration of Partaal and its significance in the rendition of the shabad  “Mohan Neend Na Aavey Haavey”

There is a long tradition of Gurbani being sung and performed as kirtan in raag. An aspect of kirtan rarely explored is the importance of taal, the accompanying rhythmic elaboration of kirtan. A further extension of the rhythmic aspect of kirtan is the use of partaal, defined by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha as “verification, scrutiny, check, checking, audit, enquiry, investigating, confirmation.” In this presentation I shall be giving a rendition (composed by Professor Tara Singh and elaborated and taught by Professor Paramjeet Singh) of a shabad of the fifth form Guru Arjan Dev Ji in raag Bilaval and rhythmical instruction of partaal, from panna 830 of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, rwgu iblwvlu mhlw 5 Gru 13 pVqwl <> siqgur pRswid ] mohn nId n AwvY hwvY hwr kjr bsqR ABrn kIny ] aufInI aufInI aufInI ] kb Gir AwvY rI ]1] rhwau ]. Through this rendition I hope to demonstrate that there is a need to further explore, in terms of both music theory and as a spiritual exercise, what exactly is the significance of partaal as an “instruction” in the heading of the shabad.

Loveleen Kaur, Wilfrid Laurier University – Sikh marriage as an act of Resistance: The case of Sikhs as Hindus in the Hindu Marriage Act and its implications on the diaspora

As Sikhs have become an increasingly transnational community, there is a continuous negotiation of cultural/spiritual knowledge, customs, and traditions that are carried through to the next generations. Marriage has been an important way in which communities connect to the past, live in the present and move to the future. However, I         would argue that in many cases, the ‘Sikh’ in Sikh marriage has become lost among the celebration.  Looking at historical occurrences of Sikh marriage, it becomes evident that the Sikh Gurus intended for the institution of marriage to be one of political resistance. Sikh marriage in the diaspora can be used as a subversive force that does not require acceptance by the dominant hegemonic culture.

Kiranpreet Dhillon, University of Southern California – Covering Turbans and Beards: Title VII’s Role in Legitimizing Religious Discrimination Against Sikhs

The story of the Sikh who is not given a job or is fired despite being qualified because he wears a turban or has a long beard is one we have all heard time and again. The story we rarely hear is of the Sikh who succeeds on a claim of religious discrimination against such an employer. This paper analyzes why this is the case by looking at the intersection of the religious accommodation provision and the grooming codes doctrine under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and argues that this disparity is due to the fact that Title VII legitimizes the very discrimination it was meant to remedy and protect against.

Kirpa Kaur, SAFAR/SikhRI/IamCommunity – Hair Speaks: Sikh Women Voicing Spiritual, Sexual and Identity Body Politic

This paper will attempt to draw attention to one of the five Kakkars of the Khalsa – Kesh, through a critical feminist perspective questioning what hair on the body constitutes as Kesh? How? By who? And For whom? Through this inquiry, I will highlight a journey of layered complexities and questions that Khalsa-initiated women silently negotiate their bodies within. As a Khalsa-initiated woman, I am forced to propel myself into a place of negotiation where my voice, access to identity, and my sexuality is dictated twice over- once within the Western imposed ideals of what is feminine and what is not and then again within Sikh spaces, where the accepted norms have been cultivated by and continue to be located in male voices and history. In this paper, I will engage in an autoethnographic and ethnographic analysis of narratives of the initiated as well as pre-contemplative Khalsa-initiated women in terms of their spiritual, sexual and identity body politics and experiences whilst living in the Sikh diaspora.

Guneeta Bhalla – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/1947 Partition Archive – The Rewards and Challenges of Documenting Partition Through Citizen Journalism.

In 1947, the newly formed governments of India and Pakistan enforced an unprecedented population exchange that sent Muslims West into Pakistan, and Sikhs and Hindus East into India. The most recent estimates reveal that over 20 million individuals were displaced, while over 1 million lost their lives.  South Asia today is still reeling from the profound transformations left in the wake of Partition, yet, the consequences are hardly studied within academic realms, when compared to other twentieth century calamities. One year ago, a few ordinary citizens realized what a great loss the lack of Partition knowledge has been for our identity and cultural heritage. Since then, nearly eighty volunteers have helped collect and preserve nearly 300 stories.  Here I discuss the rewards and challenges of documenting the world’s largest human displacement, one story at a time.

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6 Responses to “Sikholars 2012 Abstracts Announced”

  1. […] of speakers at their website: Additional information is also available on the blog, The Langar Hall. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  2. Blighty Singh says:

    Its a local event that has illusions of being an important international event. 99% of the participants are local university students in North America. This means its an event that 95% of the worldwide Sikhs have neither knowledge of nor access to. 90% of those worldwide Sikhs have important and meaningfull things to say and write. So…lets recap: A local event that deserves a listing on nothing more than the local free newsletter or the town hall noticeboard alongside the missing cats and dogs. Basically, just a bunch of plebs with illusions of being more important than the rest of us patting each other on the back and congratulating each other on attending a north american university.

  3. jodha says:

    Bhaaji – actually a North American continental event (people from all over the US and Canada) that has had participants travel from the UK and Punjab in the past.