08 Jan 2010

Confirmed Participants

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The following papers have been selected and will be presented at the first annual conference.  We had an overwhelming number of applicants for very few spots.  We thank all those that submitted this year and are looking to expand the conference in the future to allow for more papers.  The list includes the names and titles of confirmed participants.  A few more may be added upon their confirmation.

Ajeet Singh Matharu, Columbia University, History
Title: N/A
Abstract: Historiography on the Punjab region has been eclipsed by the development of the sub-field of Sikh studies since circa 1984. The polemic over Sikh identity, the making of Sikh scripture, and gender in the Sikh tradition, all conducted with implications for the (de)legitimization of militancy have led to a seeming declension of scholarship on Punjabi secular history. In this paper, I will review the literature on Punjabi social, economic, and political history until 1966 with emphasis on post-1947 publications; I will exclude the period of militancy since its literature, though broad, is either journalistic or social scientific, leaving a paucity of historiographical scholarship. I will summarize major monographs and articles and compare the regional historical conferences and journals both in Punjab and abroad. My discussion will include a description of the rifts between scholars operating in East Punjab, West Punjab, and the North American and British academies. I will note pertinent bibliographies and historiographical essays and identify the periods and themes that have attracted the most scholarly attention in order to reveal where significant lacunae may exist. I will discuss the (lack of) discourse on methodology in Punjabi historiography and its ambiguous relationship to larger debates in Indian and North American historiography. Finally, I will propose new avenues for future scholarship with special attention to the tension between Punjabi historiography and Sikh studies with suggestions for revisioning this bifurcation.

Arvinder Singh Kang and Amanpreet Singh Brar, University of Mississippi, Computer Science
Title: Extending Gurmukhi Script into Twenty-first Century & Beyond
Abstract: As we move forward into the digital age, the availability of digitized and standardized Gurmukhi, is even more important to preserve our libraries and texts, to record our lives in the language of our thoughts.
However, without a standard for how an alphabet is encoded in a Punjabi font, different machines and browsers across the world interpret the alphabet differently. Encoding was a problem with the earlier systems using parallel standards for Indic fonts. While some used ASCII1[1], some used ISCII2[12] while others used ISO3 encodings. This lead to the same text producing different output on different machines[4]. One of the solution to this problem is embracing Unicode[11] standards. With Unicode, a specific font has one and only one code point or digital signature across all machines around the world. Our online group of volunteers at Punjabi Localization Group[3][6][7][8], have been working since 2004 to create and absorb Unicode standards in Gurmukhi.

Bandana Kaur, Yale University, Political Ecology
Title: Reclaiming Natural Histories: Biodiversity and Landscape in Pre-Green Revolution Punjab
Abstract: In the past ten years, concerns have mounted over the manipulation of the Punjabi landscape as the state experiences extensive soil erosion, water table decline, and continued loss of biodiversity. While there have been some efforts to recall the ecology of the region through collective memory, resources on the landscape of Punjab prior to the Green Revolution often remain underutilized and unacknowledged, as the ecological discourse in the region has been dominated by technological and capital-intensive approach to meet domestic food demand. This study thus aims to provide an ecological history of Punjab from the medieval period through colonial times through a description of the region’s traditional cropping patterns and indigenous vegetation as well as an analysis of the socio-political processes that shaped human-environment relationships throughout modern history, as evidenced in the changing landscape. Finally, the broader aims of this research are to examine how historical and cultural records can inform contemporary efforts to sustain ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

Erik Resly, Harvard Divinity School, Divinity
Title: (Re)figuring the Sikh: Theodicy, Discipleship and Narrative in Ethical Perspective
Abstract: Inquiries into Sikh theodicy emphasize the tension between human agency and divine will, wherein the “primacy of divine grace over personal effort is always maintained” (Singh, 1999: 116). To date, scholars have primarily drawn on passages from the Adi Granth, commonly the Babar Vani, as authoritative pedagogical sources for making meaning out of suffering. Adopting the hermeneutical tools of reader response theory, I will suggest that the Janamsakhi literary tradition offers a heretofore-overlooked repository of theodical life-worlds that both supplements and complicates conventional teachings on the role of suffering in the experience of Sikh discipleship. In particular, I will demonstrate that these stories do real ethical work on the reader by intending an imagined space and refiguratively calling forth “a way of dwelling there” (Ricoeur, 1995: 234). Drawing on three particular sakhis from the Puratan anthology, I will examine the ways in which these episodes try to reach in front of themselves to shape the reader, thereby equipping her with “technologies of the self” (Foucault, 1988: 18) with which to navigate issues of risk, ambivalence and surrender. Finally, I will encourage scholars in the field of Sikh Studies to take this reception-based approach to the Janamsakhi tradition seriously as a middle ground between the contemporary hegemonic voices of etic historical criticism and emic apologetics.

Harjant Singh Gill, American University, Anthropology
Title: From Putt Jattan De to Munde UK De: The Transformation of Masculinities in Punjabi Cinema
Abstract: This paper explores the popular representations of Punjabi masculinities in Punjabi cinema and how they have transformed in the past three decades. I look at how these changes coincide with boarder shifts the Punjabi film industry which went from being regionally based and depicting life in rural Punjab, to becoming increasingly transnational and depicting life in diasporic communities. I also examine how caste and class hierarchies act as crucial ingredients in visibly marking these representations. Men in Punjabi cinema are almost always depicted as ‘mona’ (clean‐cut) Sikhs belonging to the upper (landowning) ‘Jat’ caste. Though these depictions contradict the foundational values of Sikh religion, which prohibits cutting hair and denounces caste‐based inequalities, on the cinematic screen, Punjabi Jat men are often assigned the task of upholding Punjabiyat (a sense of being Punjabi) and recovering Punjabi Sabhyachar (culture and heritage). This specific male body serves as the privileged terrain upon which community is articulated, both in Punjab and in the Punjabi diaspora. Unlike the men, women in Punjabi cinema remain largely static and fixed into the ritualized spaces of home and family.

Iqbal Kaur Gill, University of British Columbia, Counseling Psychology
Title: First Generation Canadian Punjabi Sikh Parents Beliefs  about Adolescent Suicide and Suicide Related Behaviours
Abstract: As the second leading cause of death youth suicide is a serious concern in Canadian society. Culture and religion play an important role in influencing our conscious and unconscious values, behaviours, emotions, and thoughts. As well they are critical to how issues are labeled, patterns of distress are communicated, beliefs about the root of issues, preferred helpers and solutions. An ever growing Punjabi Sikh population in Canada and their underrepresentation in mental health research present a challenge to medical and mental health services providers. This paper draws on findings from a Masters Thesis in Counselling Psychology, which was the first to describe first generation Canadian Punjabi Sikh parents beliefs about suicide and suicide related behaviours. Through an ethnographic approach the study sought to uncover the parents’ beliefs about the causes and consequences of suicide, reaction and interventions utilized in response to adolescent suicide and suicide related behaviours, barriers to seeking mental health services and current help seeking behaviours. Semi structured individual interviews were conducted with four groups of participants: first generation Canadian Punjabi Sikh parents (fathers and mothers) of adolescent children (N=3), second generation Canadian Punjabi Sikh young adults (N=4), South Asian mental health therapists and medical professionals (N=2), and a Punjabi Sikh community leader. The results of the study revealed the believed causes of suicide and suicide related behaviours to be peer relations, lack of attention from parents, parental pressure to succeed, hormonal changes, and mental health illnesses. Initially parents reported their emotional response to be shock and anger, followed by a range of other emotions. The interventions parents utilize in response to suicide and suicide related behaviours are the Sikh religion, western health care, communication and monitoring of adolescent behaviour, and alternative healing methods. Barriers to accessing mental health services were identified to be a lack of comprehension of the concept of mental health, awareness of available services, language, and the Punjabi culture; the Sikh religion was identified not to be a barrier to seeking services. Although the help seeking behaviours of first generation Canadian Punjabi Sikh parents have changed in recent years, further education is needed to raise awareness of adolescent suicide and suicide related behaviours. The findings of the study have important implications for the provision of culturally appropriate mental health services for adolescent suicide and suicide related behaviours.

Kamal Arora, York University, Social Anthropology
Title: The Politics of Pain: Gender, Mourning and the Punjab Crisis
Abstract: This paper focuses on the issue of pain, gender and mourning in the context of the violence of the Punjab Crisis. I contend that social structures such as gender and religious belief in part direct how grief and mourning are formed and articulated and guide the reformulation of everyday life and daily tasks. I focus specifically on the Indian army invasion of the Golden Temple,[1] named Operation Blue Star, as well as the pogroms[2] which broke out in Delhi following then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in the same year. I aim to explore the heightened way in which gender was built into 1984, how Sikh women, specifically widows of 1984, interrogate their lived reality and experiences of the nation-state, and also to consider how Sikh women’s identity today has been affected by their grief. What lies in the intersection between gender, grief and mourning? Central to this is the question of how Sikh women’s mourning finds its place within post-Independence India. Although Sikh widows share common experiences via common moments in Sikh history, as language and social structures are under constant flux, avoiding generalizations is essential as expressions of grief differ. A number of co-existing social processes exist which affect the manner of grieving. Mourning not only occurs in rituals surrounding death but is carried on in everyday life. The differences in the way Sikh women handle their grief is indicative of the way in which social structures in part dictate the act of mourning. For example, women who are politically involved in the Sikh movement who lost their husbands during the Punjab Crisis grieve in different ways than those women who lost their husbands and sons during the pogroms. I contend that politically active Sikh women whose husbands are shaheeds do not mourn in conventionally gendered ways, rather they reveal and channel their grief in ways bef itting their political positions.  The purpose of this paper is two-fold. In addition to exploring the experiences of how Sikh women survive the loss of loved ones during the Punjab Crisis in relation to discourses around pain and grief, I also aim to create what Das and Kleinman describe as an “alternate public sphere for articulating and recounting experiences silenced by officially sanctioned narratives” (2001:3).

Mandeep Kaur, University of Texas (Austin), Nursing
Title: The Sikh Patient: A Review of the Nursing Literature
Abstract: This study examines research publications conducted in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and mirrors them to US society as a means to better describe nursing care of the Sikh patient.  Preliminary findings show that very little literature has been published about Sikhs as patients for care, or how a health care professional may enhance their cultural sensitivity to treating a Sikh patient. Of the little literature that has been published, there is an overall consensus on what the cultural adaptations for caring for Sikh patients should be. Many of the studies reviewed showed the importance of the religion in the health care recovery process. The findings include every aspect of care from birth customs to palliative care, and how the Sikhs diverge from the majority in each of these scenarios. Nursing implications are directly discussed in a large portion of these studies. These include understanding the extended family model, differences in food and lifestyle, the importance of spirituality, and more. All in all, the Sikhs are a unique and individual minority group in the United States. Learning the norms, beliefs and values of the Sikhs is vital to providing culturally competent or sensitive care to this growing portion of American society.

Mette Bach, University of British Columbia, Creative Writing
Title: The Changing Faces of Suburbia
Abstract: In my book, Off the Highway (that comes out in the spring of 2010 with New Star Press), I explore the changing landscape of my hometown, North Delta. Over the past two decades its Sikh population has grown exponentially resulting in both wonderful cultural fusions – seventies style strip malls turned into bazaars – as well as some of the most disdainful hate crimes that this province has seen. In one chapter, I explore the story of Baltej Singh, a North Delta resident and the first Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer to fight for his right (and win) to wear a turban as part of his official uniform. In another chapter, I examine a neo-nazi attack on a security guard at the Sikh Temple. The story explores the assailant’s mother’s attempt to make up for her son’s unforgivable crime by embracing the Sikh faith and committing all of her time to volunteering at the Sikh Temple.

Preet Kaur Virdi, York University, Socio-Legal Studies
Title: Silence: Resistance or Acquiescence? Sikh women’s perspectives on Canadian law
Abstract: The proposed paper I wish to present will utilize my master’s research paper I am currently completing to discuss how Sikh women’s legal identities transform through their experience of immigration and settlement in Canada. The methodological framework builds upon the work of Ewick and Silbey (1998), Hazel Genn (1999) and Engel and Munger (2003) and addresses the following areas of interest: (a) how the Canadian state accommodates the needs of immigrant women of colour, (b) how immigrant Sikh women understand Canadian law and, (c) what informs these women’s sense of identity and (legal) entitlement. My project includes a literature review and five interviews with Sikh women who immigrated during the 1970s and 80s. The rationale for focusing on immigrant Sikh women during this time frame is because state policies and programs have (re)constructed gender and race inequality despite a national policy of multiculturalism (Das Gupta 1999). Thus, the objective is to understand more thoroughly gender and race differences and how the law shapes these differences.

In the past ten years, concerns have mounted over the manipulation of the Punjabi landscape as the state experiences extensive soil erosion, water table decline, and continued loss of biodiversity. While there have been some efforts to recall the ecology of the region through collective memory, resources on the landscape of Punjab prior to the Green Revolution often remain underutilized and unacknowledged, as the ecological discourse in the region has been dominated by technological and capital-intensive approach to meet domestic food demand. This study thus aims to provide an ecological history of Punjab from the medieval period through colonial times through a description of the region’s traditional cropping patterns and indigenous vegetation as well as an analysis of the socio-political processes that shaped human-environment relationships throughout modern history, as evidenced in the changing landscape. Finally, the broader aims of this research are to examine how historical and cultural records can inform contemporary efforts to sustain ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.
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