Our Journeys Conference 2014

Our Journeys Conference 2014

On Saturday, November 8 2014, SAFAR: The Sikh Feminist Research Institute hosted a one-day conference, Our Journeys 2014: To Know Is Not Enough, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Building on the tremendous success of past, this academic conference continued to explore a range of topics, relationships, disciplines and voices through a Sikh feminist lens. Our Journeys 2014: To Know Is Not Enough  tried to cultivate a spectrum of critical dialogue, engage in collective examining of the status quo and highlight a diverse range of research methodologies throughout the day. This conference was about the intersection of activism and academics, action and knowledge. Following the success of the conferences held at the University of Toronto (inaugural, 2011) and at the University of British Columbia (2012), SAFAR is proud to present Our Journeys 2014: To Know Is Not Enough with the continued goal of exploration into Sikh feminist agency and praxis.

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.

News Coverage

To Know is Not Enough,” by Lakhpreet Kaur. Nov 11, 2014. Kaur Life.
Conference Inspires Kaurs and Singhs,” by Lakhpreet Kaur. Nov 11, 2014. Kaur Life.
First Sikh Feminist Conference in U.S. this November,” by SAFAR. May 28, 2014. Sikh Net.
CFP Sikh Feminist Research Institute: Our Journeys Conference Nov 8, University of Michigan,” by Ashveer Pal Singh. May 24, 2014. H Net.

Photos

by Lakhpreet Kaur

Conference Program & Schedule

Schedule

9:00 – 9:45 – Registration and Refreshments

9:45 – 10:00 – Ardaas and Welcome

10:00 – 11:30 – Key Note Panel: Sikh Feminism: What do we Know? – Moderated by Inni Kaur

Gurbani Line in Image for SAFAR

One that calls oneself a Sikh of the true Guru, wakes every day committed to living Naam. Guru Ram Daas

– Guru Granth Sahib – page 305

“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago. It was my hope at the time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”

Bell Hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

While there is an inclusive definition of a Sikh, what else do we know about the Sikh faith and its prescriptions for human relations, responses to oppression, and world order?

While the definition of ‘feminism’ varies widely, what do we know about the waves of the feminist movement(s), its crucial developments, and contributions to society?

By exploring what knowledge exists from various sources, in this panel we will dive into an exploration of the intersectionality of Sikhi, feminism and discourse on Sikh Feminism.

Panelists
Inderpal Grewal
Nikky-Guninder Kaur
Palbinder Shergill. Q.C.

11:30 -11:45 – Tea Break

11:45 – 1:30 – Panel: Unheard Voices: What Don’t We Know? -Moderated by Dr. Inderpal Grewal

“Who writes? For whom is the writing being done? In what circumstances? These, it seems to me, are the questions whose answers provide us with the ingredients making for a politics of interpretation. But if one does not wish to ask and answer the questions in a dishonest and abstract way, some attempt must be made to show why they are questions of some relevance to the present time.”

Edward Said, 1982

This panel will explore erasures of experiences and voices in dominant narratives: How does our dominant narrative about spirituality, history, and society overlook essential voices and experiences?

Panelists
1. An Attempt at Seditious History: Reimagining Woman through the Archives of the Ghadr Movement – Kanwalroop Kaur

2. To Them, My Honour is their Shame: The Experiences of Second Generation Punjabi Females in Canada – Balpreet Chhokar

3. Sikh Identity and Ideas of Cultural Belonging: Violence and Resistance in Anita Rau Badami’s Can You Hear the Night Bird Call?Jaspal Kaur Singh

4. Sikh Women During the Punjab Counter-Insurgency (1984-1995)Tarnjit Kaur

5. Doli DeconstructedKirpa Kaur & Harroop Kaur

1:30 – 2:00 – Lunch

2:00 – 3:30 – Panel: Praxis: Knowledge Into Action Moderated by Dr. Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

“The concept of service is not confined to fanning the congregation, service to and in the common kitchen-cum-eating house, etc. A Sikh’s entire life is a life of benevolent exertion. The most fruitful service is the service that secures the optimum good by minimal endeavor. That can be achieved through organized collective action.”

Sikh Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct)

This panel will explore the various responses to the knowledge we hold, as well as that which we seek to hold, in order to understand and practice Sikh Feminism. How do we make room for uncomfortability in the process of new knowledge production, while building new paradigms and ways of thinking and acting?

How will we take theory and research from various perspectives and translate into practice? For example, how do we use what we know to strengthen the challenge to patriarchy, gendered oppression, domestic violence, and other overt and subversive manifestations of marginalization?

“While such explorations can be exciting, violating research and academic norms is also difficult and challenging given the extent to which we have all internalized dominant ideas about what constitutes ‘good’ research and ‘acceptable’ research principles.”

Research as Resistance: Critical Indigenous, and Anti-Oppressive Approaches, Leslie Brown & Susan Strega

1. Out of the Ashes: Sikh American Civil Society and the Promise of Gender Equality – Sangeeta Luthra

2. The Right to Rights: An examination of Children’s Rights in Punjab and Ontario – Jaspreet Kaur

3. How do I play my part? The Role of Sikh Female teachers in creating agency for Sikh Students and FamiliesHarpreet Kaur & Tina Sidhu

4. “Opening Doors and Breaking the Silence: Sikh Religious Leaders’ Perspectives of Intimate Partner Violence in the South Asian Community”Susan Kaur Chahal, RSW, MSW, BSW, BA

3:30 – 4:15 – Interactive Poster Presentations

1. I am here/Here me! YELL: Seeking a Sikh Feminist Research methodology – Loveleen Kaur

2. Turning Inwards, without Turning Anyone Away: Creation of the Sikh Family Center – Bitika Kohli, Guneet Kohli, Mallika Kaur, Gurpreet Padam

3. Unheard voices: What don’t we know? Kaurlife – Lakhpreet Kaur

4. Feminism(s) and Begampura under Seige: Social media, guerilla activism and the fight for Sikh Values – Nina Chanpreet Kaur

4:15 – 5:00 – Presentation: SAFAR on 1984

5:00 – 5:30 – Closing Panel

5:30 – 7:30 – Reception “Open-Mic”

Sunday November 9th:
*Special SAFAR Program at Mata Tripta/ Hidden Falls Gurudwara, Michigan @ 11AM-2PM;
Followed  by SAFAR Co-sponsored 1984 Memory Studio with the 1984 Living History Project.

Speakers

Balpreet Chhokar (1)
Balpreet Chhokar

Bitika Kohli

Guneet Kohli

Gurpreet Padam

Harpreet Kaur Neelam

Harroop Kaur

Inderpal Grewal

Inni Kaur

Jaspal Kaur Singh

Jaspreet Kaur

Kanwalroop Kaur Singh

Kirpa Kaur

Lakhpreet Kaur

Loveleen Kaur

Mallika Kaur

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Nina Chanpreet Kaur

Palbinder Shergill

Sangeeta K. Luthra

Susan Kaur Chahal

Tarnjit Kaur

Tina Sidhu

 

Reviewers

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Call For Abstracts & Info

Our Journeys 2014 Call for Abstracts and information


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1 comment

Balpreet Chhokar

Balpreet Chhokar (1)

Balpreet Chhokar
University of Toronto

Balpreet is a student at the University of Toronto pursuing a double major in Women and Gender Studies and Political Science.  Aside from attending university, Balpreet runs a small business in Kitchener, Ontario specializing in fitness and nutrition.

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Bitika Kohli

Bitika Kaur Kohli
Touro University Nevada College of Medicine

Bitika Kaur Kohli is a DO candidate at Touro University Nevada College of Medicine. She is heavily involved with improving access to care for low-income, immigrant, and disabled populations in the United States. She focuses on health economics and improving resources in light of the changing healthcare climate, and its trickle down implications on various communities, especially the Sikh-American community. Kohli is a Founding Board Member of the Sikh Family Center. 

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Guneet Kohli

Guneet Kaur Kohli
University of Michigan, School of Dentistry

Guneet K. Kohli is a DDS candidate at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. She began working with Sikh Family Center, at its inception, in 2012, which further spurred an interest in pursuing a project to provide dental healthcare to women of sexual and domestic abuse and human trafficking, among other other issues, in the southeast Michigan region. Kohli is additionally interested in academic dentistry and spends much of her time volunteering with various organizations through UM School of Dentistry.

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Gurpreet Padam

Gurpreet Kaur Padam
Physician, Writer

Dr. Gurpreet K. Padam, MD, is a Family Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine physician with Postdoctoral Fellowship training at Stanford University/VA Palo Alto.  She aspires to master both the science and the art of medicine and further completed a mini-fellowship in Ethno Geriatrics from the Stanford Geriatric Education Center to garner skills in serving ethnic elders while understanding the unique cultural and linguistic barriers in the delivery of culturally competent medicine.  She is a published author and her recent story is included in the Sikh Love Stories collection, Her Name is Kaur. She enjoys writing poetry and health related articles and serves on the editorial committee for San Mateo County Physician, a magazine published by the county medical association.  She is a Founding Board Member of SikhWomen.org and Co-founder and Board Member of the Sikh Family Center.

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Harpreet Kaur Neelam

Harpreet Kaur Neelam
University of Toronto

Harpreet has a Bachelor of Science from McMaster University where she undertook a double major in Mathematics and Biology and minor Psychology. She is just completed her Masters in Education in Education Administration with a focus on Social Justice and Equity at OISE-University of Toronto. At 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.  At the moment she has been seconded to the Ministry of Education and working as an Education Officer in the Inclusive Education Branch.

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 Sangeet performances as seva.

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Harroop Kaur

Harroop Kaur
Board member Jakara Movement

Harroop Kaur is a long time volunteer and currently on the board of directors for the Jakara Movement.  Through the Jakara Movement, Kaur is able to engage with various communities through a variety of events and programming. Additionally, Kaur  enjoys working closely with peers to analyze and discuss issues within the community and ways to tackle them as a new generation.

Kaur has a bachelors degree in Business and Economics and works full time as a management consultant at Accenture.

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Inderpal Grewal

Dr. 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

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Inni Kaur

Inni Kaur
Author, poet, painter

Inni Kaur is the author of a children’s book series Journey with the Gurus. She is also a published poet and an accomplished abstract painter. She is active in Sikh community affairs, raising awareness on many key faith and women’s issues. She has been a speaker at seminars at Yale and Fairfield Universities and has made presentations to the Connecticut State Board of Education, interfaith gatherings, as well as to local police departments and area schools. Inni Kaur is on the editorial board of Nishaan, a magazine celebrating Sikh heritage and culture and is an active board member of the Interfaith Council of Southern Connecticut. She also serves on the boards of the MBSK Foundation, the Namaskaar Foundation and the Sikh Research Institute, as well as on the Advisory Board of the Sikh Family Center and the daily online magazine Sikhchic.com. Born and raised in Kuwait, Inni Kaur lived in New Zealand, Australia and Greece before moving to the United States in 1982. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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Jaspal Kaur Singh

Jaspal Kaur Singh
North Michigan University

Jaspal Kaur Singh is a Professor of English at Northern Michigan University where she teachers courses on Postcolonial South Asian and African Literature, Modern Turkish Literature and Culture and Asian American Literature and Culture.  Singh is the author of a monograph entitled, Representation and Resistance: Indian and African Women’s Texts at Home and in the Diaspora (U of Calgary Press, 2008); co-editor of two anthologies: Indian Writers: Transnationalisms and Diasporas; Trauma, Resistance, Reconciliation in Post-1994 South African Writing; and an assistant editor of Voice on the Water: Great Lakes Native America Now. Currently, she is working on a Turkish Literature anthology entitled Negotiating Gender Identity in Post-Kemalist Turkey and a co-authored book, Narrating the New Nation: South African Indian Writing.

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Jaspreet Kaur

Jaspreet Kaur
Queen’s University

Jaspreet is currently completing her PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. She will soon be defending her dissertation, which looks at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada and India. In her non-academic life Jaspreet volunteers with Kaur’s United and is a Muay Thai Kru (instructor). As a martial arts instructor her foci is on the realities of violence in the lives of women in North America and the development of self-preservation skills.

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Kanwalroop Kaur Singh

Kanwalroop Kaur Singh
“Artolarist”

I am interested in being an “artolarist” (an artist-scholar-activist) and in the intersections between these three worlds. I imagine a future where I can travel to every continent (mostly on foot), take dirt roads into dark forests, hide in street alleys, climb mountains, live as a hermit for a tad, perform acts of kindness for people who need them, go on pilgrimages to gurudwaras, participate in an uprising, and write about it all. But for now, I’m working on a play, organizing with the UAW 2865, and color coding my dastaar drawer. Also. I am left handed. And I hate writing biographies of myself.

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Kirpa Kaur

Kirpa Kaur
University of British Columbia

Kirpa Kaur is a director of the Sikh Feminist Research Institute and a social activist. Kirpa is pursuing a master’s degree in educational and curriculum practices at the University of British Columbia and works on issues of community education, knowledge transfer, and program implementation.

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Lakhpreet Kaur

Lakhpreet Kaur
Editor-in-Chief, Kaur Life

Lakhpreet Kaur is the editor-in-chief for Kaur Life, an online publication aimed at empowering Sikh women. Lakhpreet also serves on the Project Development Team for the Surat Initiative, a non-profit that provides educational materials on key issues pertaining to the Sikh Community.

Lakhpreet was born in Wisconsin but has lived all across the United States & abroad. She earned a BA in Political Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a MA in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She did a year of post-graduate studies at American University studying international relations. 

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Loveleen Kaur

Loveleen Kaur
Community Health Programming

Loveleen has a passion and dedication towards issues of social justice and equity. She’s served terms as an executive member of the York Federation of Students and has been involved in events held by Sikh youth in the GTA. Upon completing her undergraduate degree in Political Science, specializing in Public Policy; she moved on to an MA in Cultural Studies, where she looked at the event of When Lions Roar held by the Sikh Activist Network and the role of the youth diaspora in changing discourse. Loveleen is currently working at a community health centre assisting in programming for newcomers and Trans* folks. Loveleen is considering a PhD…

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Mallika Kaur

Mallika Kaur
University of California, Berkeley

Mallika Kaur is a lawyer and writer who’s foci is on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia. She has worked on issues including farmer suicides, feticide, prisoner rights, and family violence. She is the Director of Programs for the initiative on Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights, housed at University of California, Berkeley.  She also serves as a pro bono attorney for CORA, a domestic violence agency in Northern California as well as Board Member for SAFAR, the Sikh Feminist Research Institute. Kaur holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University. Kaur is a Founding Board Member of the Sikh Family Center.

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Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

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.

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Nina Chanpreet Kaur

Nina Chanpreet Kaur
The New School for Social Research

Nina Chanpreet Kaur is a writer, educator, consultant and doctor of social problems. Nina is passionate about developing communities and organizations to make high impact social change. From schools to social enterprises and nonprofits, Nina serves as a catalyst for change by bridging her expertise in organizational and leadership development, group relations, educational design and community organizing.

Currently, Nina is a consultant at Teaching Matters where she trains teachers and school leaders in New York City. Nina has served the NYC Department of Education for the last 10 years. Nina is also the coordinator of the Boehm Media Fellowship at Opportunity Collaboration in Ixtapa, Mexico. Prior to this, Nina was the Founder of Kitchen Table Community and taught cooking classes to understand how food can build trust between people of different ethno-religious groups.

As a social psychologist in training, Nina’s primary interest is in identifying what underlies, drives and motivates effective change in the world. At The New School for Social Research, Nina’s graduate research is focused on trust, motivation, gender reconciliation, alliance building and transformative justice. She received a MSEd from Lehman College and holds a BA from Barnard College.

Nina is the author of several op-eds, poems, memoirs and ethnographies. Her writing has been performed in plays and exhibited in the U.S., U.K. and India. Nina recently curated Love911, a multilingual, multicultural and multidimensional social installation and art project. Nina lives for the tender moments of truth and compassion: clear seeing eyes, hands reaching out to help, arms embracing in understanding.

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Palbinder Shergill

Palbinder Shergill. Q.C
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.

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Sangeeta K. Luthra

Sangeetha  K. Luthra PhD
Santa Clara University

Dr. Sangeeta K. Luthra is an anthropologist and educator. She has taught classes in cultural anthropology and gender studies in public and private universities. Her research interests are in political economies of development, gender and women’s studies, feminist theory, and Sikh studies.  Her current research explores Sikh American institutions and identity. Her writing on diasporic Sikhs has been featured in Punjabi Beat Magazine, SikhChic.com, Sikhpoint.com.  She is also a member of the editorial board of The Sikh Love Stories Project.

Since moving to the Bay Area in 2002, she has been an active volunteer in her local Sikh community and in South Asian cultural associations.  She has been an advisor to the Kaur Foundation since 2011.

Currently Sangeeta is teaching at Santa Clara University as an Adjunct faculty in the Anthropology Department. She lives in Los Altos, CA with her husband and two daughters.

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Susan Kaur Chahal

Susan Kaur Chahal, MSW, BSW, BA, RSW
University of Fraser Valley

Susan Chahal is a registered social worker in British Columbia, Canada.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts, with a double major in Criminology and Psychology from Simon Fraser University in 1993. This was followed by a Bachelor in Social Work from the University of British Columbia in 1995. After many years practicing social work in areas of health care, family and children, and adoption she pursued a Masters in Social Work and graduated with distinction in 2014 from the University of Fraser Valley. She is currently working in the area of health care and adoption.  She joined the Network to Eliminate Violence in 2013 and served on the committee for event planning which fuelled her commitment on the issue of violence against women. The focus of her Master’s research was in the area of domestic violence, particularly the vulnerability of South Asian Sikh women.

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Tarnjit Kaur

Tarnjit Kaur

Tarnjit Kaur (Johal) has a doctorate in Physics from the UK, where she worked as a research scientist for ten years and authored and co-authored over 30 peer-reviewed research publications.  Since moving to Canada, Tarnjit has pursed a wide range of activities including writing about energy policy, she has given educational presentations on green building design, urban micro-generation of wind and solar energy and sex-selected abortion. For over four years she has been pursuing independent research in the area of Sikh mothering and has presented at international conferences on this subject (Representing Motherhood, University of Ryerson, Toronto, 21st May 2010: Tarnjit Kaur Johal: “The mother within Sikhi” and 2011 Sikholars Conference CSU East Bay, California, February 25-27, 2011: Tarnjit Kaur Johal: ““Every child has a right to cultural identity” – The roles of Sikh mothers in their children’s identity formation”). Her work has been published in a peer-reviewed anthology (South Asian Mothering: Negotiating Culture, Family and Selfhood, edited by Jasjit K. Sangha and Tahira Gonsalves, published in March 2013 by Demeter Press). Currently she is working part-time as a researcher for the Sikh Research Institute, where her focus is on gender and social justice research. Tarnjit also works as an open source web application developer and is constantly seeking to apply innovative digital technology for the purposes of community building and social justice.  Tarnjit is also the co-founder of SAFAR.

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Tina Sidhu

Tina Sidhu
University of Toronto

Tina Sidhu was born on July 5, 1983 in Stratford, Ontario. She moved to Brampton in 1990 where she took on a keen interest in Gurbani, Kirtan and learning Punjabi. She sung hymns competitively.

Her education includes an Honors Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Ontario, a Bachelors of Education and Masters of Education from the University of Toronto, OISE. Areas of research emphasize education policy analysis and program evaluation related to education contexts.

Teaching secondary math and science is a career and passion for Tina. She offers a helping hand to both students and parents in the community to promote education.

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To Them, My Honour is their Shame: The Experiences of Second Generation Punjabi Females in Canada

Balpreet Chhokar
University of Toronto

Redefining Honour/Izzat through the Experiences of Second Generation Punjabi Females in Canada

Second generation Punjabi women are often faced with a multitude of mixed messages about the Punjabi culture through the narratives that their families often enforce on their lives. The mixed messages are received through socialization into gendered cultural expectations and cultural conflicts arising from different interpretations of honour according to self and the family. This study does not underestimate the severity and hurt that such acts of systematic and communal violence have caused, but seeks to better understand the culture and customs that migrate from Punjab over to the host country (here, Canada) and how these have affected the ways in which second generation females are raised.

The historical specificity surrounding the concept of honour will be detailed by taking a look into the need to preserve and protect honour/culture through the past trauma and extreme violence to which the Punjabi (Sikh) Diaspora has been subjected. During the partition of British India in 1947, the communal violence extracted a heavy price. Often the ones left to bear the brunt of forced migration and partition were females.[i] They were subjected to being abducted, displaced, raped, shamed and also encouraged to commit suicide or murdered by their own family members to preserve family honour.[ii]   During the 1984 pogroms, Sikhs were again subjected to extreme violence; men were targeted and killed, and women were subjected to violence mainly in the form of rape.[iii]  Often men were made to watch the rape of the females of their family, to show ‘the incapacity of Sikh males to protect their women’ and the honour of their families.[iv]Given this history, the need to protect and preserve the women became a priority set in stone.  The need for protection and preserving was also carried over to their host country (Canada), as migration here also caused a sense of displacement and old fears to surface.

 This research is based on the experiences of second-generation Punjabi females who were born and raised in Canada, more specifically the Greater Toronto Area. The research sample included 7 females from the ages of 16-30, all by birth Canadian, all identifying as a part of the Punjabi culture both linguistically and culturally, all whose parents emigrated from Punjab, India. I explored how the migrating parents’ cultural understanding intertwined with the Canadian culture affecting the raising of their daughters. I examined  whether the concept of honour is heavily embedded in the transmission of the Punjabi culture.

The findings highlight how being raised in a household that upheld the values and teachings of Sikhi that was distinctly different than the Punjabi culture, allowed the Sikh religion to be used as the means to break the traditional and cultural expectations and to redefine the honour code. The semi-structured interviewed reveal various ways in which females broke the gendered and cultural expectations by using religion to redefine what honour/ izzat meant to them. With that being said, addressing these pressing issues and the pressures that young Punjabi females face in Canada can help create a dialogue that has been unheard of and quite silenced within the Punjabi community as well as throughout the diverse Canadian community (and academic research) and shed light on the experiences of Punjabi females through their own narrative by looking at how the concept on honour plays a part in their everyday life. They are not rebelling, but merely re-defining the honour code to what resonates well with them, creating a new narrative, that recognizes them as being agents of change.

KEYWORDS: honour, izzat, Punjabi diaspora, cultural conflicts, gender, communal violence, migration, Sikh

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Doli Deconstructed

Kirpa Kaur and Harroop Kaur

Doli Deconstructed: An endeavour to co-create and re-imagine

Patriarchy is both reinforced and reproduced through socio-cultural practices and institutions. The institution of marriage (wedding) is one such institution, which when deconstructed, illustrates a number of patriarchal routed rites and constructions (Routledge, 2004). This paper will deconstruct one specific ritual found within a wide array of South Asian and Southeast Asian weddings: doli. This paper will engage in deconstructing doli as per its specific function, nature and traditionalization in Punjabi Sikh weddings.

Through de-constructing doli, the paper will illustrate how this culturally endemic practice is problematic. The paper will expose how doli plays a key role in reproducing and reinforcing patriarchal socio-cultural systems reflected through unchallenged (written and un-written) laws and rules that regulate a woman’s power, autonomy, livelihood, safety, mobility and socio-political-spiritual value. Systems that inevitably strip women of socio-political agency within their domestic spheres before and after marriage; as well as, further defining and deepening inequity within meso and macro levels of society. Thus, rendering women as largely valueless and simultaneously, burden-full.

This paper will illustrate how doli acts as a strong subversive agent to the realization and actualization of the fundamental gender-equitable/anti-oppressive/inspiring values of Sikhi, in Punjabi communities (Singh, 2005). Further, it will argue that the normalized nature of this practice works to give it an insidious quality, as the practice of dowry has garnered much global attention, yet doli has been out of the purview of inquiry and  remained largely unchallenged (Dalimia, Lawrence, 2005).  Using Sikh values/worldview/theory (via Gurbani and history) and poststructural critical race feminism as it’s analytical framework,  this paper will seek to dissect doli, its performers and its performativity- through ethnographic narrative analysis of Punjabi Sikh women and men. 

The purpose of this paper is to problematize and create dialogue around doli with the endeavor to co-create and imagine more equitable rites. Rites that include intentions to bridge gaps of power and inequity, rather than to recreate them.

ਜਾਲਉਐਸੀਰੀਤਿਜਿਤੁਮੈਪਿਆਰਾਵੀਸਰੈ

Burn away those rituals which lead you to forget the Beloved Divine.
(SGGS, 590).

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Sikh Women During the Punjab Counter-Insurgency (1984-1995)

Tarnjit Kaur

Sikh Women During the Punjab Counter-Insurgency (1984-1995)

              “It was a terrible time for us, it was very bad for all Sikhs, did you know the Punjab Police would strip Sikh girls naked and parade them through the whole village? They would force all of us to stand outside of our homes and watch, they would not even let you look away, they would force you to look.”  A middle-aged man referring to the period of the Punjab counter-insurgency.

The closing decades of the twentieth century saw the violent suppression of what was initially a Sikh led civil rights movement in the Sikh-majority state of Punjab in the north west of modern day India. The asymmetric and disproportionate response by the Indian State to mass civil protes ts, which involved the invasion of forty-four Gurudwarae [1] including the center of Sikhi, Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab in June 1984[2], transformed the civil rights movement into one for autonomy and outright independence from the Indian state[3]. The proceeding decade saw the rise of an armed liberation struggle, which itself was violently suppressed through the counter-insurgency efforts of the Indian state.

The counter-insurgency has been characterized as state-sanctioned and orchestrated political violence directed at not only those participating and supporting the armed struggle but also the general civilian population of Punjab. It involved systemic enforced disappearances, extra-judicial executions, torture and other widespread human rights violations. Recently a few individual perpetrators of this state-sponsored violence have admitted to their roles in the torture and murder of both insurgents and civilians. However, the Indian State, under which such crimes were carried out, continues to perpetrate such forms of repression with impunity against other minority and opposition groups throughout India.

Political violence directed specifically at Sikh women during the period of the counter-insurgency has received limited attention within academia[4], despite widespread reports by international human rights agencies. Highly disturbing episodes unfolded during the period of the counter-insurgency where state security forces were directed to target the families of suspected insurgents, political activists and their sympathizers[5].

In this work I seek to examine the largely untold narratives of Sikh women as both witnesses,[6] subjects and resistors of violent atrocities, sexual assault, illegal detention, forced estrangement from their families and as agents in the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Through a critical feminist lens I seek to connect individual cases to a meta-narrative of how individual responses to trauma and humiliation affect collective psyche, societal dynamics and influence individual and collective resilience. 

Works Cited

Gill, K.P.S. Punajb, The Knights of Falsehood . Delhi: Har-Anand, 1997.
Grewal, Inderpal. “Making Sikh Women Refugees in 1990s U.S.A.” Jakobsh, Doris. Sikhism and Women. Delhi: OUP India, 2010. 392.
Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley. Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants. -: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.
Pettigrew, Joyce. The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerilla Violence. London: Zed Books, 1995.

 [1]Gurudwarae literally translates as “the door to the Guru” and refers to the Sikh place of collective worship.
[2]The claim by the Indian State that an invasion of these centres of Sikhi was necessary to capture an apparent 200 Sikh terrorists located within the premises of Darbar Sahib is unfathomable when considering the number of people killed by the State throughout Panjab in the first two weeks of June 1984, the amount of wanton destruction of the Gurdwawa complex and continued extra-judicial executions in the so-called “mopping-up” operations that followed immediately.
[3] (Pettigrew)
[4] (Grewal)
[5] (Gill)
[6] (Mahmood)

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Sikh Identity and Ideas of Cultural Belonging: Violence and Resistance in Anita Rau Badami’s Can You Hear the Night Bird Call?

Jaspal Kaur Singh 

Sikh Identity and Ideas of Cultural Belonging: Violence and Resistance in Anita Rau Badami’s Can You Hear the Night Bird Call?

In a post 9/11 world, Sikhs in the diaspora are now visually profiled through media representations as “terrorist look-alike” or as those who “look like terrorist” to be disciplined [and] outlawed” (Jasbir Puar Terrorist Assemblages 175).  From being “Saint Soldiers” and “Lions of Punjab,” the transformation of Sikhs into “terrorist” that must be “disciplined” and “outlawed” will be examined in Anita Rau Badami’s Can you hear the Night Bird Call?  In the novel, the main character Sharanjit immigrates to Canada after “stealing” her sister’s potential husband and struggles to belong to the nation of domicile.  Her sister remains behind only to be caught in the partition violence.  Many years later, her niece faces violence during the 1984 Sikh massacre in India. Her son, Jasbeer, becomes involved in “terrorism” in his attempt to become part of the Khalistani movement, a movement formed in response to state sponsored violence by Hindu fundamentalist in a “secular” nation-state.  How do Sikhs, terrorized throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s, attempt to belong to the nation?  How does gender configure in the feminization of the Sikhs—both male and female—in India and in transnational geo-political territories?  This paper will attempt, in part, to understand Sikhs and their attachment to the sacred in a seemingly post-secular and globalized world. 

Since Sikh men became the main target of violence due to their turbans during 1984 and most of the 1990s, resistance to this violence is imagined in hypermasculinist terms—turbaned and bearded Sikh men as Khalistanis or terrorists.  Sikh women were target of rape and massacre and many resisted through violent means, yet there is a dearth of narrative about this phenomenon  (Jaspal Singh, “Contrary space and Sikh women: imperial aftermath in Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas and Gulzar’s Maachis”).  This paper attempts to excavate (Foucault) the silenced Sikh woman’s voice in order to see how she might be resisting ideological erasure.  Testimonials from Sikh women on their experiences of the 1984 violence will be provided through an examination of Reema Anand’s Scorched White Lilies of ’84; young Sikh girls and women were target of rape and violence or witnessed the rape and massacre of Sikh women during 1984.  I will also examine the 1984 Living History Project where 1984 violence is predominantly seen to be located on the male Sikh body in order to broaden discussion about gender, violence, and resistance. 

India was created as a secular nation-state after independence, but that secularism is in question since state institutions have been clashing with social institutions through violence.  For example, state-sponsored violence during the 1984 Sikh massacre and its aftermath are well recorded and point to the failure of secularism.  Political parties in India are imbued with fundamentalism as can be seen by recurring religious violence sponsored by the State and various political parties; for example, see also the violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002  (Needham, et al., The Crisis of Secularism in India).  Thus, any individuals or organizations that resist fundamentalism are then noted as “terrorists,” as can be seen from the Sikh example during and after 1984.  What of secularism and post-secularism then?  During the course of the discussion, this paper will investigate if indeed there are moments of “non secular secularism” and “non religious religion” (Manav Ratti, The Post-Secular Imagination) in Can you hear the Nightbird Call? 

Works Cited

Anand, Reema. Scorched White Lilies of ’84. Delhi: Rupa and Co., 2012.

Badami, Anita Rau.  Can you hear the Nightbird Call? Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007.

Needham, et. al.  The Crisis of Secularism in India. Chapel Hill: Duke University Press, 

Puar, Jasbir. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Chapel Hill: Duke University Press, 2007.

Ratti, Manav.  The Post-Secular Imagination: Postcolonialism, Religion, and Literature. London: Routledge, 2014.

Singh, Jaspal Kaur.  “Contrary space and Sikh women: imperial aftermath in Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas and Gulzar’s Maachis.”  Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory 2.2 (2006): 125-134.

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An Attempt at Seditious History: Reimagining Woman through the Archives of the Ghadr Movement

Kanwalroop Kaur Singh

An Attempt at Seditious History: Reimagining Woman through the Archives of the Ghadr Movement

            The Ghadr Movement, which originated in the particular space occupied by South Asian immigrants in the U.S., is often included in Indian history only as a footnote to the “official” Indian independence movement.  It suffers from limited scholarship, even though, as a worldwide initiative against British colonization, which articulated pointedly the intertwined systems of colonial racial, economic, and political (though not gendered) oppression—it was a one-of-a-kind historical moment. The historiography of the Ghadr movement, thus far, has obfuscated the importance of gender to colonialism, and in doing so fails to see how it is also central to anticolonialism.

            Frantz Fanon (1961) presents the writing of decolonial history, as not only a way to counter colonial history, but also as a means to challenge “the immobility to which the colonial subject is condemned” (p. 15). Given the fact that colonial constructions of the Ghadr movement were patriarchal in nature, a decolonial history must also be a feminist one. In this paper, I embark on such a project by writing what I call “seditious history.” I use the term—which comes directly from the British colonial historiography—to first, present a history of a seditious movement, and second, to present a history that is seditious due to its placing of woman and gender at the center of a movement usually depicted as male dominated.  For the British, as Fanon aptly explains, a seditious history would have been an impossibility, for history was “made” by the colonizer. I attempt to reclaim the power of the space of history for woman without perpetuating the violence of “official” history.  I draw on archival material primarily from the Bancroft Library, the largest archive of primary source materials on the movement in the U.S. as well as on its holes and gaps, in order to argue that the Ghadr Movement provides an important case through which to understand how the both the literary figure and physical body of woman were essential for the birth and sustenance of the movement. 

            This paper asks and answers two central questions germane to the SAFAR conference: how did women participate in the Ghadr movement, and what will examining this movement though a gendered lens reveal about it?  I discuss three examples of the feminine presence in the movement. I examine how the contrasting archival presence and absence of Agnes Smedley and Padmavati Chandra highlights how race and class determine disparate access to power in the movement and its historiography. I discuss how Kartar Kaur Dhillon’s personal narrative stands outside of the archive as a testimony to the silencing and excluding of women within the movement.  Finally, I analyze a poem produced by the movement, in which the figure of woman represents revolution and the rewriting of history. I argue that the movement profited from the selective access it gave to women with different racial and class identities, and in this way, reproduced the racist hetero-patriarchy it was itself, subjected to—thus making it a target of and participant in patriarchy at the same time. This double bind is why the movement can be understood as feminine itself, and why it, in turn, understood the figure of woman to be truly revolutionary.

Keywords: Ghadr Movement, feminism, decolonial, historiography

Other scholars and historians engaged with are: Butler (2004), Puar (2007), Puri (2011, Ramnath (2011), Spivak (1988, 1996), Streets (2004)

[i] Frischmann, Nina. (2010). Silence Revealed: Women’s Experiences During the Partition of India. Graduate Thesis. 2-28.

[ii] Frischmann, Nina.

[iii] Baixas, Lionel. (2009). The Anti-Sikh Pogrom of October 31 to November 4, 1984, in New Dehli. Online Encyclopedia of Mass   Violence. 1-11. 

[iv] Baixas, Lionel.

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The Right to Rights: An examination of Children’s Rights in Punjab and Ontario

Jaspreet Kaur

The Right to Rights: An examination of Children’s Rights in Punjab and Ontario

            The 19th century was termed the “Century of the Child” by Swedish educator and feminist Ellen Key (Dekker, 2000). There have been many strides in the domain of Children’s Rights but by and large the children of Punjab are struggling to access the rights granted to them (United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2004). As a PhD student at Queen’s University in Kingston, I am in the process of writing my dissertation around children’s rights in Punjab and Ontario. My project looks at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and how it fails to have influence in Punjab.

            In line with the second section of this conference on unheard voices, my presentation will look at the children of Punjab and their lack of participation in the international children’s rights discourse. Although the right to participation is one of the key principles of the CRC, no children were involved in the drafting of it and since its’ ratification by India no children have been involved in the process of interpreting it. Childhood in Punjab is complicated and layered with the varying experience of being Sikh, female, lower caste or tribal. Most importantly, and what my work looks at, is that children in Punjab do not have access to knowledges rooted in text, such as the Convention. The world of text-based realities is accessed by the privileged; the material realities of children in rural Punjab, specifically my village of Butala where I did my fieldwork, are largely outside these bounds. This creates a fundamental disconnect in which the Convention, which was written for children, has no actual influence in their lives. This presentation will explore this disconnect in further detail.

My conceptual framework is rooted in the Sociology of Childhood (James and Prout, 1990). In this framework childhood is seen as a social construct that is intertwined with race, class and gender. Children are seen as worthy of study in their own right and as active participant’s in their lives and research. The new sociology of childhood requires me as a researcher to be reflexive about my role in constructing narratives of childhood while advocating for the very children I work with.

My ethnographic fieldwork is rooted in my feminist perspective which translates into presenting information through narratives which simultaneously shares the story of children in Punjab while allowing me to ideologically oppose the patriarchal and scientific voice of the very academic institution I am a part of. My position as a border-dweller, child of immigrant parents, Sikh and woman provide the lens for my narratives. Sharing my stories at the SAFAR conference would be an honor and a logical extension of my commitment to advocate for the children in rural Punjab. 

References

Dekker, J.J.H. (2000). The century of the child revisited. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 8, 133-150.

James, A. & Prout, A. (1990). Constructing and reconstructing childhood. Basingstoke: Falmer Press.

United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2004). Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, India, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.228 (2004). Retrieved February 21st 2008 from http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/crc/india2004.html. 

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Out of the Ashes: Sikh American Civil Society and the Promise of Gender Equality

Sangeeta K. Luthra, PhD 

Out of the Ashes:  Sikh American Civil Society and the Promise of Gender Equality

Keywords:  activism, civil disobedience, civil society, ethics, gender equality, peace, politics. 

On August 9, 2012, I attended a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Oak Creek Gurdwara shooting that had occurred just a few days before.  I was in Houston, TX with my daughter visiting my brother and his family.  That evening, as we walked to the steps of Houston City Hall to join a crowd of about 500 people, including Sikhs and well-wishers from a number of faiths.  The peaceful, meditative mood that hung in the warm evening air was palpable. The program began with a short speech by a local Sikh leader, Mr. Bobby Singh, who spoke of the confluence of Sikh and American values including the commitment to peace, tolerance, justice, equality, and in particular, “equality between men and women.”[1]   As I stood in the crowd listening to Mr. Singh, I felt inspired by the overall message but also cynical about the public proclamation of equality between men and women in Sikhism.  That statement which I had heard countless times before seemed hollow in the face of the cultural and social marginalization experienced by far too many Sikh women and girls.

Only weeks later did I really begin to reflect on the complex symbolism of the candlelight vigil as an important, albeit newly adopted, ritual of contemporary Sikh American politics and ethics.  While vigils are indeed about “collective mourning” and healing, I would argue that they also represent one of many forms of activism and civil disobedience increasingly adopted by Sikh Americans (Tavleen Kaur, 2013, p.183).  The violent backlash after 9/11 experienced by so many Sikh Americans has produced an unprecedented flurry of institutional, media, and artistic creativity by Sikh Americans – a bricolage of healing, self-definition, and political and ethical engagement.  In this sense, the vigils, as rituals, are dense signifiers about the participants’ past, present, and future, and have become part of a larger project of institution building and expansion into American civil society by Sikhs.

This paper examines post 9/11 articulations of Sikh American politics and ethics, the emergence of a Sikh American civil society, and, in particular, the roles and significance of Sikh women in the emerging political landscape.  I will present an overview of what constitutes Sikh American civil society, including a discussion of the distinction between Sikh American civil society and Sikh participation in American civil society. I will present preliminary findings from my ethnographic research on institution building in the Sikh American community.  In order to contextualize post 9/11 political engagement, I propose that institution building is a process of “creative agency” in which Sikh doctrines such as seva, sangat-pangat, miri-piri and sant-sipahi, are reframed dialectically with American traditions of civil disobedience, non-violent protest, activism, and coalition-building rooted in the civil rights and women’s movements (Frederick, 2003, p. ix).  Finally I will discuss the roles of Sikh American women in the emerging civil society through the following questions: Is the emergence of a Sikh American civil society – defined by an ethics of peace and equality – enabling new and more equal gender formations?  To what extent, if at all, is the public and private distinction being disrupted and does this help or hurt Sikh women? Finally, is it possible that the gender equality articulated by Guru Nanak will be re-imagined, redressed, and realized here in this diasporic moment?

Citations:

Frederick, Marla F. 2003.  Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith, pp. ix, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kaur. Tavleen, 2013. “In What Style Should We Memorialize?”  Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, Vol. 9, Number 2, pp. 173-186, London: Routledge..

Jakobsh, Doris, 2010. “Contextualizing the Issues,” Sikhism and Women: History, Text, and Experience. Edited by Doris Jakobsh. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Kaur, Nikki Guninder, 2013. “In the Language of Love” in Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, Vol. 9, Number 2, pp. 209-213, London: Routledge,. 

Mahmood, Cynthia & Stacy Brady, 2000.  The Guru’s Gift:  An Ethnography Exploring Gender Equality with North American Sikh Women.”  Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Mandair, Arvind-Pal S., 2013. “Sikhs and Public Space.” Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, Vol 9, Number 1, pp. 1-6, London: Routledge.

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“Opening Doors and Breaking the Silence: Sikh Religious Leaders’ Perspectives of Intimate Partner Violence in the South Asian Community”

Susan Kaur Chahal, MSW, BSW, BA, RSW
University of Fraser Valley 

“Opening doors and breaking the silence:  Sikh religious leaders perspectives of intimate partner violence in the South Asian Community”

Violence against women is complex issue that has become an increasing social justice concern in Canada and across the global community.  Intimate partner violence crosses all boundaries of economic, societal, racial, and ethnic groupings (Claudia, 2001; Readford, Hester and Pearson, 2001; Hague, 2000, as cited in Gill, 2004).  Developing initiatives and creating awareness within communities are at the forefront in prevention strategies.  Domestic violence in the South Asian community is a complex issue that cannot be reduced to simplistic understandings or prevention efforts that do not acknowledge the intersecting layers of complexities for South Asian women.  A considerable gap exists in existing empirical study on the prevalence of intimate partner violence in South Asian communities and even less that addresses the understanding of Sikh Canadians on this issue (Thandi and Lloyd, 2011, p. 50).  There is even less in the area of intimate partner violence research that attempts to understand faith-based perspectives, particularly the views of Sikh religious leaders.  Sikh Gurdwaras are predominantly controlled by men and have come under criticism by South Asian women activists for their lack of leadership in addressing the issue of gender violence (Kang, 2006, p. 157). 

In recent years, community education and awareness has gained momentum to highlight this social justice issue.  Cultivating a culture of dialogue that denounces gender violence is a challenge every community faces.  The interface between religious institutions and intimate partner violence provides an essential analysis and perspective of how religious organizations and leaders can be integral community stakeholders to address intimate partner violence (Nason-Clark, 2009; Ragsdale, 1995; Copper-White, 2011; O’Brien, 2009; Zakar, Zakar & Kramer, 2011).  There is significant potential for South Asian religious leaders to educate the community and challenge gender inequality and patriarchal norms (Zakar et al., 2011, p. 382).  This argument is echoed in other communities critical of religious leaders’ conservative approaches that hinder women to seek help or respond in inadequate ways to support women (Kulwicki, Aswad, Carmona & Ballout, 2010; Pyles, 2007).  Religion paradoxically can be a strength and source of empowerment for women while simultaneously silencing and creating a barrier (Pyles, 2007, p. 281).  It is a complex and emerging reality for women experiencing violence.

            This research study was conducted in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.  A qualitative, exploratory design was used as there is very little research on domestic violence within the Sikh community.  The research objective was to gain insight on the views of violence against women, and what would comprise a community response by interviewing Sikh religious leaders.  The theoretical framework that guided this study is an integrated approach informed by Kretzman and McKnight’s (1993) model based on asset based community mobilization, intersectionality and anti-oppressive practice (AOP) (Ono, 2013, p. 457).  “Community capacity frameworks are about change and the processes that influence change” and acting on opportunities towards the betterment of communities (Mancini et al., 2006, p. 211).  This approach suggests change is driven by a shared sense of responsibility, moving away from the notions of deficits but instead focusing on strengths in communities.

This research study focused on seven interviews with Sikh religious leaders to understand their perspective on domestic violence in the Sikh community, the role of Gurdwaras  in addressing this issue and prevention strategies.  This study provides the unique perspectives of Sikh religious leaders on factors and dynamics that influence domestic violence and strategies to address this issue.  The emerging themes include: (1) factors contributing to violence, (2) barriers to disclosure, (3) vulnerability of immigrant women, and (4) strategies to combat violence.  The findings suggest that there is a willingness on the part of Sikh religious leaders to engage in community collaborative dialogue. This study concludes with recommendations to further engage the Sikh religious community in network informed approaches.

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How do I play my part? The Role of Sikh Female teachers in creating agency for Sikh Students and Families

Harpreet Neelam and Tina Sidhu
University of Toronto

How do I play my part? The Role of Sikh Female teachers in creating agency for Sikh Students and Families

Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.

George Dei (2006)

Sikhs are a part of the diversity in Ontario and the focus of this study.  They represent 1.4% of the population in 2006 and are projected to represent 2.3% or over  1 million by 2034 (Statistics Canada, 2010).  Sikhs are usually identified with their distinguished visible identity which may include uncut hair, turban kirpan and the kara.  Sikhs engage with the Ontario Education system as students, parents, members of the community yet there is a dearth of representation in the system whether it be as policies, programs, staff or in the curriculum (Grewal, 2011, 2012).

The Ontario Education system recognizes the importance of honouring diversity in it’s visions, policies and strategic planning, but how does their implementation play into practice in the schools and classrooms?  What does it look like on the ground? For the scope of this study, the authors will look into answering this question through their identity of a Sikh female teacher,  with a focus on Sikh students and families.  We  would also like to consider the questions:  how do these policies impact?; through whom?;  to what effect?  Do Sikhs in the Ontario Public education system feel engaged and included?  

This paper will use a critical race and Sikh feminist perspective to answer these questions. When looking at critical race perspective in the education setting,  the main objective is not to determine whether racism or in this case “faith” as an “ism” exists but to determine the manner in which racial (or faith) meanings and identities provide the basis for action, (in this case being educational decision making) (Evans, 2007).  We also situate ourselves in Sikh feminism where we believe that our purpose as educators is to play our part in the vision that Sikh principles of egalitarianism and empowerment are realized for all, regardless of ability, caste, class, ethnicity, gender, race, sex, and sexual orientation (SAFAR, 2014).

Data will be collected through using both our autoethnography narratives of our experiences in the Public Ontario Education system.   According to Duarte, “Autoethnographic writing begins with a descriptive narrative of events and activities that unfold within a particular culture and then develops into a reflective analysis of these events and activities to generate new insights and to enhance the researcher’s sensitivity towards the knowledge gained in the process” (Duarte, 2007).  This methodology aligns with feminist thought as indicated by Jasbir Jain: “feminism is more than a voice of protest or questioning. It is moral self-reflection, a conquering of inner fears and a realization of self-worth … It does not abandon values or relationships, but goes on to create new ones.”(Jain, 2011)

The themes that will be investigated in this study are Sikh women teachers (the authors) perceptions of 1) the role and the impact our gender and faith identity plays in navigating the public Ontario Education system, and 2)  the role our gender and faith identity as educators in the Ontario Public Education System  plays in the agency of the Sikh students, parents, and community with whom we have interacted.  Another major theme that will be explored in the analysis of the narratives, is the role that being a Sikh female teacher plays to create agency and to interrupt social reproduction -the emphasis on the structures and activities that transmit social (gender) inequality from one generation to the next (Doob, 2013)- of the patriarchal system that both the Sikh students and families and we, the authors are a part.

This paper by no means speaks to all the voices of Sikh female educators and create a single story, but seeks to create a context in which the authors have navigated the education system as educators and as products of the system who were empowered. For example, we speak to how agency led to the creation of a conference for Sikh girls by a public school board.  We, the authors aim to broaden impact by bringing our context to create space for Sikh female voices to the entire Ontario’s Education system.   Only with some form of context, can policy makers, academics, and educators begin to examine and contribute to recognize themes and areas for further research.  

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with  reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

Paulo Freire –Pedagogy of the Oppressed

References

Achieving Excellence A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario. (2014). Toronto: Queens Printer for Ontario.

Duarte, F. P. (2007). Using Autoethnography in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Reflective Practice from ‘the Other Side of the Mirror’. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(2), Article 21.

Evans, A. E. (2007). School Leaders and Their Sensemaking About Race and Demographic Change. Educational Administration Quarterly, 43(2), 159-188. 

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum.

Grewal, S. (2011, June 23). Woman claims discrimination prevented her from becoming            school principal | Toronto Star. thestar.com. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/06/23/woman_claims_discrimination_prevented_her_from_becoming_school_principal.html

Grewal, S. (2012, November 19). Peel school board and vice principal reach settlement on human rights case | Toronto Star. thestar.com. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/11/19/peel_school_board_and_vice_principal_reach_settlement_on_human_rights_case.html

Jain, J. (2011). Indigenous roots of feminism culture, subjectivity and agency. New Delhi: SAGE Publications.

Dei, G. S. (Director) (2006, September 28). Meeting equity fair and square.. Leadership Conference of the Elementary Teachers™ Federation of Ontario. Lecture conducted from Elementary Teachers™ Federation of Ontario, Mississauga.

Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population, 2006 to 2031. (2010, March 9). Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population, 2006 to 2031. Retrieved June 21, 2014, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-551-x/91-551-x2010001-eng.htm

Realizing the promise of diversity Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy. (2009). Toronto, Ont.: Ontario Ministry of Education.

SAFAR – The Sikh Feminist Research Institute. (n.d.). SAFAR The Sikh Feminist Research Institute. Retrieved June 21, 2014, from http://www.sikhfeministresearch.org/

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