Speakers

Philip Deslippe, UC Santa Barbara

Philip Deslippe is a doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he focuses on Asian and metaphysical religious traditions in modern America. He is a member of the editorial collective for Tides: The Magazine of the South Asian American Digital Archive, and has published articles in the academic journals Amerasia, Contemporary Buddhism, and Sikh Formations, and has an article forthcoming in the Journal of Punjab Studies.

Mohan Singh: Flying Hindoo, Chauffeur, Citizen, and Levitating Yogi
One of the most significant stories of early Punjabi Sikh migration to the Unites States is also one of the most obscure, complicated, and unsettling. In 1908, Mohan Singh entered the United States from the village of Himmatpura as a young man and settled in Chicago as a household servant for a wealthy family. Only a few years later he became a student of the pioneering aviator Glenn H. Curtiss and the first licensed Indian-born pilot. After performing in aerial circuses and demonstrations for Curtiss, Mohan Singh resettled in Los Angeles where he worked as a chauffeur and became a naturalized American citizen. Mohan Singh, like many of his peers, was stripped of his previously acquired citizenship in the wake of the 1923 Thind decision. He then embarked on a final and remarkable act of re-invention. With texts stolen from Swami Ram Tirath and exercises plagiarized from Yogananda, Mohan Singh put on robes and went on a single, three-and-a-half-year tour of the United States under the name “Yogi Hari Rama” and earned a massive amount of money and notoriety. He then vanished, leaving behind his Benares League of America, the largest yoga group in the United States before the Second World War. The life of Mohan Singh is not only important in its own right, but is a fascinating window into the major themes of early South Asian American history— citizenship, opportunity, and discrimination— with complicated elements of individual ambition, willful deception, and the opportunistic use of American Orientalist fantasies.

Manvir Bhangoo, McMaster University

Manvir is a recent graduated in Masters from McMaster University in Globalization and the Human Condition. In 2013, she founded the non-profit organization called Laadliyan Celebrating Daughters, which raises awareness about the prevalent gender inequality which exists within South Asian Culture. She is an aspiring social activist and is deeply passionate about women’s rights and issues of diversity and equality.

Between Two Worlds: Where do Second-Generation Punjabi Canadian Women belong?
This paper examines the bicultural experiences of second-generation Sikh Punjabi women, how they navigate both Punjabi and Canadian cultures, and what, if any, are the implications of having a dual identity. The research was conducted through a qualitative study, which consisted of in-depth interviews with 10 Punjabi Canadian female participants between the ages of 18-24 born and raised in Canada. The paper examines how second-generation Punjabi women balance their parents’ Punjabi heritage with the Canadian culture they grew up in. Particularly, if the women are able to balance the two cultures successfully or does one overpower the other resulting in conflict within the home and/or within their social circles. The paper also explores the way in which the women navigate spaces in which they are required to be Punjabi and in which they have to be Canadian. It examines the outcomes of when parents wish to pass down a culture to their children which conflicts in significant ways with the culture their children grew up in.

Tavleen Kaur, University of California, Irvine

Tavleen Kaur is a PhD student in Visual Studies at UC Irvine. She researches the role of architectural design and urbanism in the built environment of the South Asian American diaspora. She is looking at how the formation of faith-based architectural identity in the public sphere is a process that happens in tandem with that of the racialization and marginalization of religio-ethnic communities. She is working at the intersections of design, planning, race, and ethnicity.

Vandalized Walls, Repurposed Halls: hate and heritage in the North American public sphere
This paper examines how heritage, both physical and digital, becomes an avenue through which minority and marginalized communities [are expected to] display belonging in a diasporic context. The paper presents critical analysis on the social and political implications of the various methods used by the Sikh community to self-identify and become identifiable, particularly in the United States. It argues that the various methods used to legitimate Sikh heritage, and by extension Sikh bodies, often exclude its painful and traumatic aspects. These are the aspects that, were they to be recognized, would undo the framework of progressive, liberal politics heritage and its constituents are expected to espouse. Lastly, this paper also argues that the narrative and method of the contemporary push for a distinctively Sikh political identity in the United States functions in two ways: first, by being founded on the disenfranchisement of other marginalized communities, and secondly, by not thoroughly accounting for the ways in which the earliest immigrants, Sikh and non-Sikh alike, resisted these mechanisms.

Rupy Tut, Oakland, CA

Rupy C. Tut is an Oakland, California based visual artist. Rupy’s work is a blend of mainly two unique traditional art forms: Gurmukhi calligraphy and Indian miniature painting. Rupy advocates for creative expression through collaborations and workshops in the community. Having exhibited at major venues in London, Miami, and Los Angeles, Rupy continues to produce collections that challenge norms of identity and belonging as well document the richness of Gurbani and her Punjabi Sikh heritage.

Reviving Sikh art and heritage through understanding of context and traditional art forms
The increasing support for the arts over the last ten years is a much-desired shift in our priorities as the Sikh community. While these efforts have gained momentum recently, large amount of paintings from the 1800s indicate a prevalent culture of patronage during the days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Sikh empire. In 2016, as the artist in residence at the Sikh Foundation, I studied and researched artwork in the Kapany collection of Sikh art dating to the 1800s and 1900s. As an artist exploring and pushing boundaries of Gurmukhi calligraphy as well as practicing a traditional art form such as Indian miniature painting, my connection to the new is well informed only by an awareness of the old. Understanding the content, context, audience, and patrons of older Sikh Art and practicing traditional art forms are my personal drivers to revive Sikh art and heritage. In my talk, I survey a variety of artwork from the 1800 – 1900s while discussing the culture of craftsmanship and devotion practiced by artists behind some of these spectacular pieces of work. In addition, I share the inclusion and relevance of such traditional art forms into my own work as a calligrapher and miniature painter.