London Sikh Youth as British Citizenry: A Frontier of the Community’s Global Identity? Gorby Jandu

In 1967 G.S. Aurora described first generation Sikhs in London as “Frontiersmen” due to the three challenges they faced. Five decades later Britain’s Sikhs have overcome employment and housing but “cultural distance” still persists as a social border. Thisprohibits socio-­‐psychological acculturation and may inaccurately stop Sikhs being perceived as citizenry by peers. Whilst earlier Sikh generations do retain elements of being “unsettled citizens”, their youth consider themselves both British and Sikh -­‐ both autochtoon and allochtoon.

Could this be due to the youths’ formative, now extra-­‐qaumic socialisation sphere (Aurora’s “cultural contact”)? Even though London's Sikh youth still balance their inherited Indic religio-­‐culture alongside the secularising urban youth milieu, the former is in decline. One node these youth use is citizenship and belonging. In this way, national identity politics could help Sikh children make sense of their lives as Britons.

Desecrating the Sikh body: Lala Munshi Ram and the Rahtia Sikh conversions of 1900 Prabhjap Singh Jutla

Just six weeks after the Punjab Chief Court’s decision in Bose v Kaur (1900) that Sikhs were Hindus, Arya firebrand Lala Munshi Ram (1856-­‐1926) converted a group of Rahtia (weaver) Sikhs to Hinduism on 3 June 1900. The conversions may have gone unnoticed had it not been for the fact that as part of the conversion ritual, the Rahtia Sikhs had to undergo a public shaving ceremony in Lahore, the old Sikh capital. The objective of this paper is to highlighthow these conversions marked the beginning of new aggressive tactics to manage Sikh religious difference by the militant wing of the Arya Samaj led by Lala Munshi Ram, which subsequently contributed to a de-­‐escalation of Sikh separatism for nearly a decade. The paper will, therefore, remedy an oversight in Sikh Studies scholarship, which has ignored these two developments for far too long.

Portraying the Divine: The Iconography of Sikh Gurus in Miniature and & Provincial Painting Jasleen Kandhari

Portraiture is the predominant theme in Sikh art yet this is a genre of art history that has not been researched extensively whilst portraiture in other South Asian art historical traditions such as the Mughal and Rajput courts has been studied in depth.This paper halls explore the relationship between art and religion in Sikhism and how the core beliefs of Sikhism are portrayed through the representation of the Gurus of the Sikh faith. Based on analysis of historical miniature and provincial paintings in illustrated manuscripts such as the visual narratives of the Janamsakhis-­‐ the hagiographical accounts of the life of the first Guru of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak dev ji, the iconography of Sikh Gurus shall be explored. Emphasis will be placed on depictions of the first Sikh guru and how the development of his portrait by the Sikh modern art master, Sobha Singh has influenced contemporary representations.

 Sikhism through the New Age prism: Yogi Bhajan’s spiritual discourse and its cultural context Jaspreet Kaur

 The genealogy of New Age discourse in western nations can be traced back at least as far as the late nineteenth century. Scholars have demonstrated how New Age spirituality draws on multiple South Asian sources of inspiration, including the Vedanta (King 1999), Tantra (Urban 2003), and Buddhism (Lopez Jr 1999). However, relatively little attention has been paid to New Age spirituality’s appropriation of Sikhism. In this paper, I will analyze the texts and speeches of Yogi Bhajan (1929-­‐ 2004), the charismatic leader of the syncretic New Age-­‐Sikh movement, ‘3HO’. I will use textual analysis to examine how and to what extent Yogi Bhajan’s discourse translates Sikhism into a New Age context. I will investigate what that means for the discursive boundaries of both NewAge spirituality and Sikhism.

Title of paper: Naqal – Performance & Community


Manpreet Kaur

In this paper, I examine the ways in which an oral tradition asserts, reinvents, or alternately struggles with issues of survival, in contemporary Indian scenario,with the Naqal folk form (Mimicry) of the Mirasi community in Eastern Punjab as my case-­‐study. Through this oral tradition, its textual content as well as its performative resonance, I discuss how the framework of the performance, rooted in the community it performs for, allows satire as strategy. The performative space allows it a vibrancy where the humor can be semantic, syntactic, phonetic or contextual, but the utterance is contained within the community it works within, and often decries. The oral tradition of Naqal is simultaneously formulaic and subversive, encyclopedic and parochial, mimetic and carnivalesque, invocative and subversive, ritualistic and secular (even scatological). What is the syntax of such a performance that is full of dichotomies?Is it that the audience appreciation comes from the recognition of the same, or is the location of the performer community lending them this unique role – that of the lowly jester as well as the wise keeper of larger community values.

An oral performative tradition like this one thus treads the fine line between past and present, incident and its narrative, and the abstract and the real, and I seek to understand the performative space that defines it as such as well as its potential in contemporary scenario. This project is, methodologically, an ethnography of a cross-­‐section of some communities that constitute Punjab – albeit from the point of view of a moment in motion, when these communities occupy certain participant positions as the Naqal event happens. The Naqal, as the object of this study, reveals these subjectivities in a logic that is specific to, emanates from, and emerges to form, the performance tradition and its many participants.

Translating the Sikh: An assessment of the works of Leyden, Trumpp and Macauliffe Gurinder S Mann

At the turn of the nineteenth century the British began to expand their colonial designs to encompass the Punjab. To further their interests they took to understanding the Sikh people. Translating Sikh texts would aid in understanding the religious precepts of this hardy and worthy race of people. This paper considers how the British looked at translating Sikh texts over a period of start with the relatively unknown Dr John Leyden (1775-­‐1811), who undertook complete translations of texts like the Bachitra Natak(wondrous drama) and the Prem Sumarag Granth (true path to love). We consider the project to translate the Sikh scriptures by the German philologist Ernest Trumpp (1828-­‐1885). The paper also looks at the contribution made by Max Arthur Macauliffe (1841-­‐1913) in his magnus opus, The Sikh Religion. The translations can be assessed by comparing the pre-­‐colonial and colonial views of Sikh works.

Sikhs’ Religious Dress Codes in Italy

Sabrina Pastorelli


Italian contemporary society, like other European countries faced with increasing religious diversity, needs to regulate and/or accommodate the plurality of religious belongings on the basis of its historical tradition while taking into account some relatively new religious symbols and dress codes. In recent times there have been heated debates at the EU level about the wearing of religious symbols and dress codes in the public space. This paper aims at drawing a picture of the Italian response to new religious symbols and dress codes. Drawing upon state public management, media approach and judicial treatment, the dress codes issues concerning the Sikhs in Italy are compared with those of other religious communities.

This research was part of the RELIGARE project, a three years research, funded by the European Commission on the religious diversity and secular models in Europe.

The Poet and History: Harinder Singh Mahboob’s Sikh Historiography

Prabhsharandeep Sandhu


Recently, scholars have taken an increasing interest in the historiography of religious communities. Some have argued that we must rely on non-­‐traditional sources of history, such as oral texts or folk memory, in order to study diverse, non-­‐western communities. Others have argued that the very idea of history as a linear sequence of events is problematic and culturally specific. In this paper, I will address how one contemporary Sikh poet and scholar, Harinder Singh Mahboob (1937– 2010) treats the subject of Sikh history, and will discuss what Mahboob can contribute to an alternative vision of Sikh historiography. Through a close reading and interpretation of Mahboob’s poetry, I will argue that Mahboob’s writing develops and performs a Sikh-­‐inspired approach to history, one that does not rely upon factual details and empirical sources. Mahboob’s writings are an instructive case study to understand how a poet may creatively intervene in religious historiography.


Conference website: http://www.ucc.ie/en/religion/research/macauliffe2014

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