The Our Journeys Conference is the academic conference organized by SAFAR – The Sikh Feminist Research Institute. While there are several conferences which take place around the world with a focus on Sikh studies, this conference series is the only one of its kind with a focus on Sikh feminism, an emerging field of inquiry and discourse. 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.This Conference series serves to provide a promote the intersection of activism and academics, action and knowledge.
The inaugural SAFAR conference Our Journeys Conference 2011 was hosted in partnership with the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education (CWSE) at the University of Toronto on October 1, 2011. This conference was highly successful with over 250 conference attendees and 31 presenters including numerous renowned scholars, such as Prof Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh and Prof Geetanjali Singh Chanda (Yale), as well as young emerging scholars and community researchers. It attracted a wide participation both from within the Sikh community and non-Sikh communities, and succeeded in providing a forum for diverse voices.
SAFAR’s second academic conference Our Journeys Conference 2012 created and embraced genuine dialogue, starting with basic questions like “Gender ki Hai? What is Gender?” to make the academy accessible and interesting to non-academics and potential academics alike. Held on October 27, 2012, in the scenic University of British Columbia, this was the inaugural conference on the West Coast and met its goal of promoting and sustaining feminist research, praxis and activism.
The most recent conference, Our Journeys 2014, was held in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, on November 8, 2014. November 2014 marked 30 years since the 1984 atrocities waged against Sikhs in India and is the month of the birth of Guru Nanak, who challenged the status quo and deeply rooted paternalistic values of the times; sowing seeds of Sikh feminism as we know it today. Holding the conference in this month of this year allowed us to highlight the relationship and often disconnect between knowledge and its application. Our Journeys 2014: To Know Is Not Enough sought to unpack “knowledge” in its multiple natures from its: current status, production, dissemination, axis of interpretation, political agency, interconnectedness to community and finally, translation into action. Our Journeys 2014: To Know Is Not Enough asserted that to simply know is not enough and endeavour to go beyond the acknowledgement of anniversaries and Wikipedia facts. This conference aimed to breathe in new possibilities with the potential to combine the wisdom of the past and possibilities for the future.
SAFAR’s biennial academic conference series Our Journeys (University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, University of Michigan) has made gainful strides in mainstreaming “Sikh feminism,” inspiring new admissions into PhD programs, and encouraging public discussions and new community projects.
At the same time, all conferences are resource-intensive and selective; despite best efforts, certain essential voices cannot join the events, many deserving scholars cannot travel to attend, and only very local sangat members are able to attend. Weighing these realities, ever with an eye on inclusivity, equity, and creativity, SAFAR has chosen to redirect our energies this year. While there will be no 2016 Conference, we continue to expand academic and activism relationship-building projects in local communities: from facilitating grants to support Sikh feminist work, to better honing SAFAR’s programming to meet the needs of this emerging field, to supporting students and young feminists.
If you would like to join SAFAR in its efforts, please get in touch! We welcome new energy, scholarship, and research.