About

Our Vision

A world where the Sikh Gurus’ principles of egalitarianism and empowerment are realized for all, regardless of ability, caste, class, ethnicity, gender, race, sex, and sexual orientation, by bringing expansive revival, attention, voice and praxis to the feminist values and egalitarian politics inherent within Sikhi.

Our Mission

SAFAR comprises academics, educators, activists, community organisers and independent researchers, committed to promoting and sustaining Sikh feminist research, praxis and activism.

SAFAR will achieve this by: promoting and cultivating research; creating discourse and spaces that will help develop these values and politics; building alliances and partnerships with academic and non-academic organizations as well as communities and spaces committed to these ideals; and by supporting local and global Sikh institutions and communities.

Recognizing the emancipatory nature of Sikhi, SAFAR defines the Sikh feminist initiative as that which uncovers and understands what causes and sustains oppression in all its forms and strives to create social equity through individual and collective efforts.

SAFAR’s Background

In June 2010, a group of Sikh women scholars, academics, activists, educators, community organisers and independent researchers, initially mostly based in Toronto, Canada, came together to form SAFAR – The Sikh Feminist Research Institute. The motivations behind this endeavour lay in the collective need to evolve Sikh feminist thought by drawing on the egalitarian messages inherent within Sikhi and re-connecting with a feminism that long pre-dates the western paradigm. The emphasis on Sikh feminist research arises from the recognition of its transformative nature where not only aspects of Sikh women’s existences are documented but rather Sikh feminist research is a catalyst for personal and collective engagement in seeking social justice.

To achieve the goals of promoting and sustaining Sikh feminist research, SAFAR will continue to seek to democratise access to academic research, create avenues for applying and connecting theoretical work, and preserve the authenticity of Sikh women’s voices within the academy and beyond.

SAFAR’s activities include:

  • Organizing an annual academic conference, “Our Journeys”
  • Conducting community-based outreach, including a mentorship conference for young women in secondary school and a monthly political discourse development discussion for women of all ages
  • Developing the first ever Sikh feminist journal, a peer-reviewed on-line effort led by an international editorial board
  • Creating a virtual community space for exchange of ideas, commentary, and aspirations
  • Providing a repository for Sikh feminist oriented material and publications.

 

Accountability

SAFAR has three communities of accountability:

  • the global Sikh community since SAFAR ’s motivations are rooted in Sikhi;
  • the academy, in which it is situated; and
  • the feminist movement, from which it takes inspiration and shares solidarity.

Guiding Values

SAFAR is committed to promoting and sustaining Sikh feminist research by drawing on the inherent egalitarian and social justice messages of Sikhi.

SAFAR is dedicated to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, to uphold the fundamental commitments of academic freedom, freedom of expression and association.

SAFAR is committed to protect the right to be free of hate activity, based on any axis of subordination, including, but not limited to, age, ancestry, citizenship, creed,  colour, disability, ethnic origin, family status, gender identity, level of literacy, marital status, place of origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

2014 Conference Committee

Harleen Kaur

HarleenHarleen Kaur is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, studying English and minoring in Community Action and Social Change. Besides her studies, Harleen dedicates her time to many extra-curricular activities; she is the President of the Sikh Student Association, an Honors Resident Advisor, a research assistant on HIV/AIDS work, and an Associate for Kaur Life.

Harleen has also dedicated much of her time to community work, as a Advisory Board member and Chair of social media for Groundcover News, as well as a volunteer advocate for the Sikh Coalition. Post-graduation, Harleen hopes to travel abroad, after which she will return to the US to pursue a dual graduate degree in law and public policy.

Dr. Parvinder Mehta

ParvinderMehtaDr. Parvinder Mehta currently teaches English and Liberal Arts Studies courses at Siena Heights University’s Metro Detroit Campus. She has also taught in India, at constituent colleges of University of Delhi, and in the US at Wayne State University, University of Toledo and Davenport University. She earned her PhD in English from Wayne State University. Her doctoral work had focused on representation of immigrant identities in selected works by contemporary Asian American women writers and filmmakers.

She is now working on her book manuscript titled, Mimic Women: Cultural Camouflage and Global Modernity. Her other research interests include studying Sikh representation in literature and popular culture. Her publications include academic articles in Journal of South Asian Diaspora, Journal of South Asian Popular Culture, South Asian Review and Sikh Formations. She also enjoys writing poetry in English, and hopes to publish a book of poems in the near future

Raman Singh

RamanRaman Singh is an (almost) life-long resident of Michigan. She is married, with two sons. She is a graduate of Wayne State University with an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. She is a small business owner in Plymouth, Michigan.

Raman is participates actively in her local Gurdwara (Gurdwara Sahib Mata Tripta). Raman also serves on the Board of Trustees.

She is also active in her local community of West Bloomfield, Michigan. She serves on the School Board for the West Bloomfield School District. This term she is serving as Secretary of the Board.

Another area of interest is inter-community and interfaith work. She works with local interfaith organizations like Interfaith Leadership Council, WISDOM, World Sabbath, and Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, along with Interfaith Power and Light. She is a regular panelist on the Public Television Program Interfaith Odyssey.

Executive Board

Harpreet Kaur Neelam, Chair (On Leave)

Harpreet has a Bachelor of Science from McMaster University where she undertook a double major in Mathematics and Biology and minor Pysc. She is currently working on her Masters in Education in Theory Policy Studies in Education Administration with a focus on Social Justice and Equity at OISE-University of Toronto. She is also working full-time as Instructional Coordinator for Science and Technological Education in Curriculum and Instruction Department for the Peel District School Board.

Harpreet has volunteered for organizations including Sikh Centennial Foundation, Spinning Wheel Film Festival in which she coordinated the Sikh Arts and Literature Competition, Sikh Art Council, Toronto Sikh Retreat, and has facilitated Workshops for SikhRI. She also runs summer camps for Guru Granth Sahib Academy and has taught at the Mississauga Dunwin Gurmat School for many years. Harpreet is a highly accomplished practitioner of classical music and routinely gives Gurbani Gurmat Sangeet performances as seva.

Harlovleen Kaur, Treasurer

Harlovleen KaurHarlovleen is currently on leave from doing her PhD student at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Ontario. Her research focus is on gender gaps in the International Committee of the Red Cross, with specific references to conflicts in Punjab and Gujarat. Ms. Kaur holds M.A, LL.M. (Gold Medal), LL.B and B.A in Laws degrees from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India. She also has extensive teaching experience, including teaching assistantships at York University, and university lecturer experience in India.

Mallika Kaur, Director

Mallika Kaur is a lawyer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia. Working with local civil society, social initiatives, international advocacy organizations, and academic institutions, she combines research, advocacy, scholarship, and law to bring attention to pressing human rights issues.

In the U.S., Mallika has worked closely with Sikh and other immigrant communities in New York, Illinois, and California on issues ranging from post-9/11 discrimination to domestic violence against dependent visa holders. She has also worked with asylum seekers, rape survivors, as well as incarcerated juveniles.
In South Asia, Mallika has worked on and written about issues ranging from female feticide and Punjabi farmer suicides to police interrogation techniques and politics of internal displacements. She traveled in Kashmir as the 2010-11 Harvard Sheldon Traveling Fellow, speaking to women and girls caught in the conflict.

Mallika holds a J.D. from Berkeley Law and a MPP from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Kirpa Kaur, Director

Kirpa Kaur is an ever aspiring political spiritual activist with a background in Psychology, Social Equity and Critical Studies.   With experience spanning from the Red Cross Child Abuse education Respect ED and Global Justice programs, to the Vancouver Rape Relief Crisis Line, and Transition Home, to co-creating the first South Asian specific mentorship program and forums around gang related issues for secondary and elementary in the cities of Vancouver, Surrey, Delta, Kirpa brings a diverse range of community development experience to the table.   She has volunteered closely with The Sikh Research Institute to help inspire communities to build personal and active relationships with Sikhi in their lives and is one of the co-founders of I am Community, a self-empowerment and community support program for South Asian single mothers and their children. Currently she is working on her Masters in Counseling and Community Psychology with a focus on Education and Policy work.

Areas of experience and interest include gendered violence, immigration and citizenship, First Nations sovereignty, gang related at-risk programming and child abuse. She continues to be inspired by the all-encompassing inclusive feminist critical spiritual political economic analysis of the Khalsa.

SAFAR Advisory Board

Anne Murphy

Chair in Punjabi Language, Literature and Sikh Studies, University of British Columbia

A-MurphyAnne Murphy is Assistant Professor and Chair of Punjabi Language, Literature, and Sikh Studies at the University of British Columbia. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Department of Religion and her Master’s degree in Asian Languages and Literature from the University of Washington. She previously taught in the Religious Studies and Historical Studies Concentrations at The New School in New York City. Her research interests focus on the historical formation of religious communities in Punjab and northern South Asia, with particular but not exclusive attention to the Sikh tradition. Her monograph, The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in Sikh Tradition, was published by Oxford University Press in September 2012. The book explores the construction of Sikh memory and historical consciousness around material representations and religious sites from the eighteenth century to the present. She edited a thematically related volume entitled Time, History and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia (Routledge, 2011).

Dr. Murphy’s current research interests concern the formations of modern Punjabi literature, and particularly the articulation of the secular within it, and the historical formations of social service or “seva” as an expression of ethical life within Sikh tradition. She conducted research on the latter topic as a Senior Fellow with the American Institute of Indian Studies in 2009-2010, and received a grant for the project from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 2010. Dr. Murphy has recently instituted a new oral history program in her third-year Punjabi class, and teaches classes on the history of Sikh and other religious traditions in South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora, Punjabi language and literature, and South Asian cultural history. She is from New York City.

Selected publications:
The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in Sikh Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
“The gurbilas literature and the idea of ‘religion’” in The Punjab Reader, edited by Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir (New York and New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012), 93-115.
“The Specter of Violence in Sikh Pasts,” in Teaching Religion and Violence, edited by Brian Pennington (New York: Oxford University Press and the AAR, 2012), 149-163.
Editor, Time, History, and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia (Routledge, 2011). Includes work by: Aparna Balachandran (Delhi University), Varuni Bhatia (Michigan), Nicolas Dejenne (Sorbonne), Purnima Dhavan (University of Washington), James Hare (Columbia University), James Hegarty (Cardiff), Rajeev Kinra (Northwestern), Arvind-pal Singh Mandair (Michigan), Rastin Mehri (SOAS), Christian Novetzke (University of Washington), and Teena Purohit (Boston University), as well as my introductory essay.
“Objects, ethics, and the gendering of Sikh memory” in Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 4 (2009): 161-168. Part of an interdisciplinary forum on “Early Modern Women and Material Culture.”
“The Guru’s Weapons,” in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (June 2009).
Guest editor for issue of Sikh Formations (December 2007); topic: “Time and history.” Contributors include: Purnima Dhavan (University of Washington), James Hare (Columbia University), Christian Novetzke (University of Washington), Teena Purohit (Columbia University), Rajeev Kinra (Northwestern).
“History in the Sikh Past,” in History and Theory (October 2007).
“Materializing Sikh Pasts,” in Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory (December 2005).
Translations of selected poems of the 15th century saint Ravidas, in Untouchable Saints: An Indian Phenomenon, edited by Eleanor Zelliot and Rohini Mokashi-Punekar (Delhi: Manohar, 2004).
“Mobilizing seva (Service): Modes of Sikh diasporic action,” in South Asians in the Diaspora: Histories and Religious Traditions, edited by Knut Axel Jacobsen and Pratap Kumar (Leiden: Brill, 2004).

Inderpal Grewal

Professor, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Yale University


Inderpal Grewal is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. Most recently she has taught at University of California, Irvine, where she was director of Women’s Studies and of the PhD Program in Culture and Theory.. Her research interests include transnational feminist theory; gender and globalization, human rights; NGO’s and theories of civil society; theories of travel and mobility; South Asian cultural studies, and postcolonial feminism. She is the author of Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire and the Cultures of Travel (Duke University Press, 1996) and Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms (Duke University Press, 2005), and (with Caren Kaplan) has written and edited Gender in a Transnational World: Introduction to Women’s Studies (Mc-Graw Hill 2001, 2005) and Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational: Feminist Practices (University of Minnesota Press, 1994). Currently she is working on a book length project on the relation between feminist practices and security discourses. She is also co-editing (with Victoria Bernal, UC Irvine, Anthropology) an edited collection entitled “The NGO Boom: Critical Feminist. Practices.”
WGSS 115 Gender in Transnational World
WGSS 631 Feminist Theory–State & Non-State
WGSS 340 Feminist & Queer Theory
WGSS 380 Gender and Sexuality in Media and Popular Culture
WGSS 630 Feminist Postcolonial Theories: Subjects and Knowledges
WGSS 364 Sex, Gender, and the Modern Body
Publications

An Introduction to Women’s Studies: Gender in a Transnational World, 2nd Edition

Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire and the Cultures of Travel

Scattered Hegemonies Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Religious Studies Department Chair, Colby College

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Crawford Family Professor at Colby College. She has published extensively in the field of Sikhism, including books entitled

1. Of Sacred and Secular Desire, An Anthology of Lyrical Writings from the Punjab (IB Tauris 2012)
2. Sikhism: An Introduction (IB Tauris 2011)
3. Cosmic Symphony (Sahitya Akademy, 2008)
4. The Birth of the Khalsa (SUNY 2005)
5. The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (1993)
5. Sikhism (translated into several languages including Japanese) (1993)
7. The Name of My Beloved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus (1995; 2001)
8. Metaphysics and Physics of the Guru Granth Sahib (1981)

Her views have also been aired on television and radio in America, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, India, and Bangladesh.

Professor Nikky Singh was born in India, and came to attend Stuart Hall, a Girls’ Preparatory School in Virginia. She received her BA in Philosophy and Religion from Wellesley College, her MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Ph.D. from Temple University. Over the years she has received many awards including Phi Beta Kappa, Durant Scholar, Best Paper, Daughters of the American Revolution Award, Outstanding Young Women of America Award, a Senior Fellow at Harvard University, and Fellowship from Punjabi University. She has received honors from the Sikh community for her distinguished scholarship including the Outstanding Accomplishments Award (presented by Sikh Association of Fresno, California), Sewa Award by the Sikh-Canadian Centennial Foundation for Scholarship on Sikhism (Toronto), and Guru Gobind Singh Foundation Lecture and Award (Chandigarh, India). She serves as a trustee for the American Institute for Indian Studies, and as Co-Chair of the Sikh Studies Section of the American Academy of Religion. She is on the editorial board of the History of Religions.

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC

Lawyer

Ms. Palbinder Kaur Shergill completed her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1990. Called to the B.C. bar in 1991, Palbinder is a lawyer and certified mediator. She specializes in the areas of personal injury, civil litigation and constitutional law. She was appointed Queens Counsel in 2012.

In addition to practicing civil and personal injury litigation, Ms. Shergill has been the General Counsel for the World Sikh Organization for over 20 years. Palbinder’s work towards the advancement of human rights law in Canada, has resulted in her appearing as counsel in landmark human rights cases before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Palbinder is currently a Governor for the Trial Lawyers Association of BC. She has served as a Director of the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) Board from 2002-2008 and as National Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Administrative Law Section.

Palbinder is an active volunteer in pro bono legal clinics, and often serves as a guest lecturer at universities, high schools, and various community organizations, on issues relating to human rights, law, politics, and gender equity.