(May 3-4, 2019) 

Theme of the Conference
Celebrating Guru Nanak: New Perspectives, Reassessments and Revivification


Program | Abstracts


Description and Rationale

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 sixth international Sikh Studies conference on the theme of Celebrating Guru Nanak: New Perspectives, Reassessments and Revivification.

In preparation for the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth, we invite papers that critically reassess and at the same time celebrate the ongoing significance and relevance of Guru Nanak’s social, spiritual, philosophical and political contribution to the world.

Since the late 1960s Guru Nanak’s teachings have been systematized into a theological system through the influence of modernist and secular scholarship. Since then this depiction of Guru Nanak has become a point of contestation within Sikh Studies discourse and is coded into the discipline’s central exclusionary binaries: critical or traditional scholarship. By returning to ask questions about Guru Nanak’s philosophy of Oneness we seek to disrupt and resist this hegemonic narrative. How can a reengagement with Sikh intellectual heritage and paradigms for thought be re-tailored to speak to a future formation of the Sikh tradition while resisting attempts to “contain” such thinking outside the universal? What avenues of exploration are available to think and translate alongside Guru Nanak, and the Guru Granth Sahib to engage in philosophical exploration of tradition? What assemblages can be initiated to open new paradigms for Guru Nanak’s Oneness through a comparative engagement? Is it possible to revivify the pregnant suggestion that the Sikh tradition retains an “infinite hermeneutic”? In what ways can scholars in the humanities and social sciences creatively engage with new understandings of Guru Nanak and his thought for the 21st century?  What ways of engaging remain or can be developed from looking at Guru Nanak’s teachings and his life-stories as speaking to a philosophy of Oneness?

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, theology, architecture to creatively explore a future where not just Guru Nanak’s key concepts but the significance of his life and personality  are free of the hegemonic grasp of secular delimitations. What new potentials and challenges would such an endeavour face?

We invite graduate students to actively participate as respondents to academic presentations in the conference.

We also invite Sikh activists around the world to bring their own perspectives in a special panel discussion on the relevance of Guru Nanak’s teachings in the actual day-to-day activities of their operations at the global level.

Timelines / Participation

The conference will be mainly a three-day event of panel discussions, and will be held on Friday through Sunday, May 3-5, 2019, at the newly built Interdisciplinary Building (Symposium INTS 1113) of the Riverside Campus of the University of California. The abstracts of the papers are due by November 30, 2018 and complete papers by April 15, 2019. Attendance at the seminar will be open to graduate students, faculty and the public. 


The details of the budget will be worked out once we have a clear idea of who will be coming to participate in the conference. The Saini Chair of Sikh Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) will provide funding to cover local expenses, board and lodging, and travel funding to those participants whose proposals have been accepted. Graduate students are encouraged to make their travel arrangements through the Graduate Student Association (GSA) of their institutions. 


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 on-going process of community building between individual scholars as well as across institutions. The 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. At its most ambitious, this conference will raise further the profile of UCR, its faculty, and its students and lays the foundation for future scholarly collaborations between UCR and other institutions.


Chair of the Organizing Committee:

Professor Pashaura Singh


Professor Arvind-pal Singh Mandair

Dr. Corinne E. Knight
Tejpaul Singh Bainiwal
Gurbeer Singh Sangha
Adam Tyson

Event Coordinators:

Francesca Moreira

Geneva M. Amador