Sikh and Punjabi Studies at UC Santa Cruz, 2014-15 – Annual Report

Sikh and Punjabi Studies at UC Santa Cruz, 2014-15 - Annual Report

The following activities were completed under the auspices of the Sikh and Punjabi Studies Program at UCSC. Activities are partly funded by three endowments, and supported by the volunteer effort of Professor Nirvikar Singh and the UCSC Sikh Student Association. Significant administrative support is provided by the UCSC Division of Humanities and Institute for Humanities Research.

The three endowments are

1. Sarbjit Singh Aurora Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies (held by Prof. Nirvikar Singh),
effective from 2010. [SSAC]

2. Guru Nanak Heritage Fund, effective from 2012. [GNHF]

3. International Economics/Punjab Studies Fund, effective from the 1990s (this is a very
small fund but allows periodic support of activities) [IEPS]

For some events in the following list, the above sources of financial and other support are specifically noted.

• Punjabi Language Teaching, Summer 2014

Introductory Punjabi language (one quarter of instruction) has been supported since 2012 by the GNHF, with bridge funding from the Dean of Humanities and the SSAC. The class was taught for the third time in Summer 2014, each time at the San Jose Gurdwara. Enrollments were about eight students on each occasion.

In 2014-15, the class was approved for teaching on the main campus, and it will be offered there for the first time in 2015-16. The short term goal is to double previous

enrollments, to at least 15 students. The longer term goal is to add a second course in Punjabi language, to create a two-quarter sequence. [GNHF]

• 1984 – Beyond the Trauma, October 2014

Thirty years ago saw the culmination of increasing social conflict in Punjab, a Sikh majority state in India. In 1984, the government of India launched a military operation on the Sikhs’ central religious site, aimed at militants but also ensnaring innocent pilgrims.

Later that year, Sikh bodyguards assassinated India’s Prime Minister in retribution. This was followed by pogroms against Sikhs all over India, and a decade of violence and repression in Punjab. The perpetrators of state violence have not been brought to justice, and the events of 1984 and after continue to cast a shadow on the people of the region.

Prof. Rahuldeep Singh Gill of California Lutheran University (CLU) spoke about this history, and how to move forward positively, but without forgetting the past, especially in the context of the Sikh diaspora in the US. Prof. Gill is Director of the Center for Equality and Justice at CLU. The talk was followed by an interactive discussion, moderated by Prof. Nirvikar Singh. Prof. Singh was visiting India in 1984 and experienced some of the events described above. [SSAC and UCSC Sikh Student Association]

• Sikh Studies & Post-Modern Orientalism, October 2014

Prof. Nirvikar Singh gave a talk exploring how Sikh Studies in the North American academy is engaging with intellectual currents that can broadly be termed “post-modern.” More specifically, he offered a critique of the asymmetrical privileging of Western “postmodern” scholarship on Sikhs against the Sikh community’s own self-understanding. The talk was followed by an interactive discussion with participation of a wide cross-section of UCSC faculty.

• Diaspora and Memory — Sikhs and 1984, December 2014

This was a second event marking the 30th anniversary of 1984 (see above). The events of 1984 and subsequent years continue to cast a shadow on Sikhs across the globe. Prof. Gurinder Singh Mann, Kundan Kaur Kapany Chair in Sikh Studies at UC Santa Barbara and Prof. Pashaura Singh, Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies at UC Riverside, served as panelists, sharing their thoughts on, and experiences of these events, as well as the continuing implications for the global Sikh community. The panel and discussion were moderated by Prof. Nirvikar Singh. [SSAC]

• Sikhs in California Schools Curriculum, January 2015

At the request of the Sikh Coalition, Prof. Nirvikar Singh provided a letter of support for an effort to ensure that Sikhs, as one of the oldest immigrant communities in California, received adequate discussion in the California schools curriculum.

• Course: Introduction to the Sikhs, Winter 2015

Prof. Nirvikar Singh taught this 2-unit course, which he designed, for the fourth time in 2015. He teaches it in addition to his regular course load in Economics, so there is no financial claim on the three endowments. The course introduces the Sikh community, including its origins, history, belief system, and contemporary issues. Other topics include Sikh music, art, literature, and aspects of Sikh society. Particular attention is paid to the Sikh diaspora in the United States and in California, including comparative perspectives with other minority communities. For the first time, the class was listed under the new UCSC Department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. Students write papers and make oral presentations. The class has a diverse enrollment, and includes a student trip to the San Jose Gurdwara, offering class members and their accompanying friends a first-hand cross-cultural experience.

• Mutiny in Oregon: Early Twentieth Century East Indian Radicals and the Birth of the Ghadar Party, March 2015

In her talk, Johanna Ogden, an independent historian and activist from Oregon who served as consulting historian for Astoria’s Ghadar Party Centenary Commemoration, resituated the birth of that radical movement in Astoria, Oregon. This work was based on new archival research. The Hindustani Association of the Pacific Coast, better known as the Ghadar Party, was a game-changing development in Indian history. Ghadarites called for and attempted the overthrow of British colonial rule in India during WWI, seeking a caste-free, secular and independent Indian nation. Ghadar was overwhelmingly initiated by and composed of Sikh laborers from the North American West and became a worldwide movement drawn from people of all castes and religions. [SSAC]

• Sikh Rappers & Social Justice, March 2015

Sikh hip-hop artists Baagi and Hoodini (Gunjiv Singh and Jagmeet Singh) explored facets of the immigrant and minority experience in multicultural America, in an evening of music, poetry and collective discussion. The evening touched on topics such as race relations and social inequalities in today’s complex society. [SSAC]

• The State of Sikh Studies in Western Academia, March 2015

Prof. Nirvikar Singh spoke in the Sikh Studies lecture series at Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada. He argued that although Sikh and Punjabi Studies has an impressive presence in North American academia, the field remains precarious in certain ways, both with respect to its position in academia, and with respect to the Sikh community, its object of study. In his talk, he provided a basis for this claim of precariousness, discussing broader asymmetries in the production and reproduction of knowledge in those parts of Western academia that encompass or influence Sikh and Punjabi Studies. He examined the relationship of the field to South Asian studies, religious studies, and aspects of postmodernism, as well as to underlying ideologies such as Hindutva. He illustrated his arguments, by drawing from five topics that have been salient or are emerging as important in Sikh and Punjabi Studies: the origins of Sikhism, the later evolution of the tradition, diversity in belief and practice, the Sikh diaspora, and Sikh sacred music.

• Gender-Differential Effects of Terrorism on Education: The Case of the Punjab Insurgency 1981-1993, April 2015

Prakarsh Singh, Assistant Professor of Economics at Amherst College, Massachusetts, spoke on the long-run effect of the 1981-1993 Punjab insurgency on the educational attainment of adults who were between ages 6-16 years at the time of the insurgency. His work found a substantial and statistically significant negative effect on educational attainment by girls who were of school age during the conflict. [IEPS]

• Turban Day, April 2015

This event was the second time that the UCSC Sikh Student Association held a Turban Day at the Quarry Plaza, a central location on campus. The students tied turbans on dozens of students, staff and faculty members, and shared information about the Sikh faith and community with all those who stopped by. The Aurora Chair funds helped purchase the turban cloth for the event. [SSAC and UCSC Sikh Student Association]

• Millennial Sikhs in a Capitalist Economy, May 2015

Prof. Nirvikar Singh delivered a talk with this title at the UC Riverside Sikh Studies conference, “Living and Making Sikhi in the Diaspora: The Millennial Generation Comes of Age.” The abstract of the paper follows: “Sikh teachings emphasize hard work and individual responsibility, as well as sharing and social justice. Those teachings also speak to the fundamental limits of material wealth accumulation. This paper examines how millennial Sikhs in northern California individually and collectively address the tensions of living and thriving in a modern capitalist economy, while also living up to Sikh principles. Arguments are developed based on interviews with young Sikh entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as other ethnographic research examining individual attitudes and collective action strategies by millennial Sikhs.”

• Diasporic Religious Identity in Emerging Adulthood: The Case of British Sikhs, May 2015

This talk by Dr. Jasjit Singh, Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, examined processes of religious transmission among members of minority diasporic religious communities, with a focus on British Sikhs. Using ethnographic methods including the first ever large scale online survey of British Sikhs, the talk explored the shift which has occurred for many young South Asians in Diaspora who now identify more closely with a religious as opposed to an ethnic identity. Focusing on different arenas of religious transmission including families, religious institutions and the internet, he examined how processes of religious socialization and familial nurture impact on identity, in particular among young people entering ‘Emerging Adulthood.’ [SSAC]

• Secularism in India, May 2015

Prof. Nirvikar Singh spoke and led a discussion with students in Prof. Nathaniel Deutsch’s graduate History seminar on Religion & Modernity. The discussion was broad, but included the case of Sikhs in post-independence India, and the relationship of that religious community to Indian framings and implementations of secularism.

• Waking in Oak Creek, May 2015

Prof. Nirvikar Singh showed the DVD of this title, documenting the local community’s response to the August 2012 killings at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and led a discussion with the audience of members of the Sikh Student Association. [Sikh Student Association]

• Waking in Oak Creek (2), May 2015

Prof. Nirvikar Singh also showed the DVD and led a discussion with the UCSC Police Department Citizen Academy, where the audience included students, community members and UCSC police officers.

• Giddha (Women’s Punjabi Folk Dance) Group, May 2015

For the first time, UCSC women students organized a Giddha dance group to complement the long-standing Bhangra group. Both groups performed at the annual Indian Cultural Show. Aurora Chair funds were used to provide partial support for costume purchases for the Giddha group. [SSAC]

• Revolution or Assimilation: Understanding the Evolving Identity of the Punjabi

Sikh Diaspora in California during the Early Twentieth Century, June 2015 Rajan Gill completed his Master’s essay with this title, under the supervision of Prof. David Brundage of the History Department.

• Sikh Student Association Seva (Service) Days

The UCSC organized monthly visits to the San Jose Gurdwara to perform seva, with activities such as helping in the langar (community kitchen).

• Economic Transformation of a Developing Economy: The Experience of Indian Punjab, 2014-15

In 2013, after a conference on “Re-Building Punjab: Political Economy, Society and Values,” organized by Dr. Inderjit Kaur and Prof. Nirvikar Singh at UCSC, which included Prof. Lakhwinder Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala, as a speaker, an Agreement of Cooperation was signed between the two universities. In March 2014, a joint conference on Punjab’s economy was held at Punjabi University, hosted by Prof. Lakhwinder Singh. In 2014-15, Prof. Lakhwinder Singh and Prof. Nirvikar Singh have worked on editing a book with the title above, based on the conference papers. The book is under contract with Springer. The Foreword will be provided by Dr. Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist of the World Bank. He has written, “…given the iconic status of the Punjab economy, such an understanding can shed light on development in general from which we can learn and benefit wherever we are located in the world. This is what makes the book, Economic Transformation of a Developing Economy: The Experience of Indian Punjab, an important one.”


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