Paper Abstracts

Session 1 – Language and Literature
Christopher Shackle

The paper discusses English-language scholarship since the 1960s, particularly that which has been produced in universities in North America and Europe, in two fields: Punjabi language studies relating to both India and Pakistan, and literary studies relating both to older Sikh literature and to classic Punjabi texts by Muslim authors.

Session 2 – Contemporary Society I
Doris Jakobsh

This paper begins with a brief overview of contemporary work on women in Sikhism, beginning with an examination of introductory texts on women and religion. Notions of ‘lived’ religion will be addressed, as will the multiplicity of gender constructions (based on notions of ‘doing’ or ‘being’ gender) through an examination of space, identity and ritual, both within their historical and contemporary manifestations.

Session 3 – Contemporary Society II
Nicola Mooney

This paper explores the contours of modernity and diaspora in the Punjabi context. Professor Mooney argues that these phenomena are intricately connected in the Punjabi case, demonstrating that this situation responds to the particular experience of modernity in this rural region, and suggesting that Punjabis (and particularly communities like Jat Sikhs) can be considered to be in diaspora in modern and urban locations in India, regardless of/prior to any transnational movement. Finally, she briefly questions how the nation is to be positioned within the nexus of diasporic modernity.

Session 4 – Philosophy
Nikky G.K. Singh

Sikh philosophy is a perpetual dialectic between an impersonal infinite Being and a palpable experience of that One. Through a feminist lens, Professor Singh explore this unique dialectic play out in the 1) ontological, 2) existential, and 3) aesthetic spheres.

Session 6 – Historical Perspectives II
Pashaura Singh: “New Directions in Early Sikh History: Location, Translation and Interpretation of Early Sikh Sources”

Much of the debate in early Sikh historiography has revolved around the questions raised by positivist historians trained under the influence of post-Enlightenment modernism. Mostly they have presented historical facts as telling of a single narrative by addressing the question: ‘what really happened?’ They have consistently maintained that history and documentation could prove the single line of causality. Their constant struggle with available sources was to define a singular methodology as relevant to scholarly enquiry, which can be identified as historical teleology. Such an approach privileges the scholar’s ‘historically accurate’ account over the memories of the followers of a religion and plays down the ‘tradition’ handed down from the past. As a matter of fact, written documents emerge from the ‘struggle of memory against forgetting’. Recent scholarship firmly maintains that historical facts do not lead to one story but interpretation of such facts to create various versions of the history and therefore ‘critical histories’. During this presentation Professor Singh will focus on the three points of early Sikh history: (1) Location of manuscripts; (2) Translation of early texts; and (3) Interpretation of early sources.

Session 7 – Political Economy
Shinder Thandi, “Perspectives on Punjab’s Recent Political Economy”

The economic well-being of Punjab has a direct impact on national and global perceptions and behaviour of all stakeholders, be they resident Punjabis, migrants, borrowers, investors or philanthropists. Professor Thandi’s presentation will provide an overview and assessment of recent academic discourses relating to the relative performance of the Punjab economy. It will also provide a commentary on broader socio-economic and political trends including issues relating to sustainability, demographic change, ethnicity and migration and governance. The presentation will conclude by assessing future prospects for Punjab’s economy and polity.

Session 8 – Ethnic Studies and Musicology
Inderjit N. Kaur, “Paṛtāl Form in Sikh Shabad Kīrtan (Sacred Music)”

The primary Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth, is rich in musical forms and designations. This presentation will feature findings from ongoing research on the musicology in the Guru Granth, and its performance applications. It will explore the complex structure of the Paṛtāl verse form in the Guru Granth, and its relationship with musical structure, using the rendition by an eleventh generation Sikh musician, of a Paṛtāl shabad (sacred song) in Rāg Soohi.

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