24 Feb 2010

Sikholars Conference a HUGE SUCCESS!

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This past weekend was the first annual Sikholars: Sikh Graduate Student Conference. From Toronto and Vancouver, from New York and Boston, some leading young researchers converged upon Stanford University.

Beginning with the topic of the scholar in Sikhi, Harinder Singh creatively discussed the views of scholarship emanating from Gurbani and examples of community intellectuals from Bhai Gurdas to the recently departed Harinder Singh Mehboob.

The opening panel “Beneath the Surface” featured papers from Harvard’s Erik Resly, York University’s Kamal Arora, and University of British Columbia’s Iqbal Kaur. Discussions ranged from the usages of the janamsakhi literature in understanding the Sikh experience, understandings of trauma by the wives of shaheeds in Punjab and widows of the Delhi Pogroms, and issues of perceptions of adolescent suicide by Punjabi Sikh families in British Columbia.

The 2nd panel, titled “Locality: Old and New” saw topics on biodiversity, the role of izzat, and voices from North Delta. Bandana Kaur, Yale University, detailed the changes of Punjab’s ecology during the pre-Green Revolution period; Mette Bach, University of British Columbia, shared excerpts and accounts from her upcoming book about the changing people, lifestyles, and interactions in Punjabi-populated North Delta; Preet Kaur, York University, discussed the understandings of Canadian law by Punjabi Sikh immigrants.

The afternoon session, “Beyond Borders,” saw discussions beyond any national territory. Ajeet Singh of Columbia University provided a critique of the historiography of Punjab/Sikh studies, from the 1960s to the post-structuralist approaches popular among some today. Arvinder Kang of the University of Mississippi discussed his role and the ongoing debates in the promotion of Gurmukhi and Punjabi on the internet today. Mandeep Kaur, University of Texas Austin, gave a literature review of medical research related to the Sikhs. Finally, Harjant Gill, American University (Washington D.C.) concluded the panel with a discussion of Punjabi masculinities as reified and displayed in Punjabi films.

Over 80 community members from throughout California attended the event. Far exceeding the organizer’s expectations, it was standing-room only in this first event of its type – a Sikh graduate conference. Attendees and participants both left excited and exuberant. The event was made possible by the Sikh Spirit Foundation and the Jakara Movement. The Jakara Movement hopes to continue with such programming annually, while increasing its size and scope.

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