(May 7-8, 2021) 

The theme of the Conference
Sikh Studies in the Western Academy: Exploring its Prospects and Challenges


Program | Abstracts | Flyer


Description and Rationale

For the first time in its history, the International Sikh Studies Conference will be 100% virtual/online.

The Department of Religious Studies at the University of California Riverside and the Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies are pleased to announce the call for papers for UC Riverside’s seventh international Sikh Studies conference on the theme of Sikh Studies in the Western Academy: Exploring its Prospects and Challenges.

The early twenty-first century continues to be a very exciting time for the field of Sikh studies. Within the last two decades scholars have begun to question prevailing approaches to the study of Sikhism in both the west and India itself to the point that this least examined and perhaps most misunderstood of South Asia’s religious and cultural traditions is now an established part of curricula and scholarly programs across North America and England. Indeed, the establishment of the Sikh Studies Group within the structure of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) is an important indicator of this change. Currently, there are nine academic endowed chairs duly established within the United States, Canada, and England, with more proposed at Berkeley, Calgary, and Birmingham. In addition, there are a growing number of scholars in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and mainland Europe in other positions whose teaching and research interests are either centrally or partially related to Sikh studies. It should therefore elicit little surprise that undergraduate and graduate courses in Sikh studies, particularly Sikh history and religion, have increased dramatically in this period, a rise which corresponds in part to Sikh immigration into Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. A new generation of scholars and students has begun to engage with the Sikh tradition, and there has been a steady growth of scholarly literature and teaching resources on Sikhism in the last two decades.

This online conference will focus on these questions: What are the prospects of the discipline of Sikh and Punjabi studies in the western academy? What lessons can be learned from the past to build the future of Sikh studies? What role can community representatives and organizations play in the process of town-gown cooperation? How can scholars of Sikh studies deal with the vocal opposition of ultra-conservative fringe groups in the Sikh diaspora that have managed to gain a dominant voice in social media effectively trolling, harassing, and marginalizing progressive scholarly voices? Is there a lesson to be learned from non-Sikh communities how they have managed to negotiate similar dilemmas and problems, especially in the contemporary context when there is so much targeting of minorities, liberals, and dissent? How can scholars of Sikh studies play the role of public intellectuals to combat anti-intellectualism?

We invite scholars to explore these questions from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches including (but by no means limited to) sociology, history, anthropology, musicology, political science, literature, philosophy, religion, South Asian Studies, and theology.

We invite graduate students to present their current research at this online conference.

We also invite community representatives to participate in this online conference and provide the community perspective.

Timelines / Participation

The conference will be held online due to COVID 19 situation. This two-day event will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 7-8, 2021, through Zoom Meetings. The participants will be sent the Zoom link close to the conference. The abstracts of the papers are due by December 15, 2020, and complete papers by April 15, 2021. Participation in this online conference will be open to graduate students, faculty, and the public. For this purpose, online registration will be necessary.


There are two main outcomes of this project, one immediate and quantitative, and the other long-term and qualitative.

The immediate outcome of this conference will be the publication of selected papers emerging from the conference on a coherent theme. The task of soliciting contributions from among the participants and organizing and editing the volume will fall to the chair of the organizing committee of this conference. It is anticipated that an academic publishing house will be receptive to publish such a volume.

In the long term, this conference will contribute to the ongoing process of community building between individual scholars as well as across institutions. This online conference provides an opportunity for scholars with otherwise disparate fields of inquiry in the area of Sikh Studies / South Asian Studies to enter into conversation with one another. This conference represents a first step in developing further collaborative projects among scholars of UCR and other universities around the world.


Chair of the Organizing Committee:

Professor Pashaura Singh


Tejpaul Singh Bainiwal

Gurbeer Singh

Event Coordinators:

Francesca Moreira