Workshop on Sikh and Punjab Studies at Lund University, March, 19, 2005

On March 19 2005 a one-day workshop on Sikh and Punjab Studies was arranged at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University.
The workshop was attended by about 60 people, including students and teachers from various universities in Scandinavia, as well as members of the Sikh communities in Sweden and Denmark. The key speakers were internationally renowned experts from Germany, Sweden, UK and USA, who are working within the interdisciplinary field of Sikh and Punjab Studies. Representatives of the different Sikh communities in Sweden and Denmark were invited to present their religious activities and organizations. Dr. Olle Qvarnström and Ph D candidate Kristina Myrvold from the Indic Religions Division/Dept. of History and Anthropology of Religion, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, organized the workshop, in cooperation with Prof. Gurinder Singh Mann from the Center for Sikh and Punjab Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA.

In his welcome speech Olle Qvarnström noted that the workshop was indeed a historical event, since it is the first time a university in Scandinavia organizes a workshop that is only dedicated to the study of Sikhism and the Punjab. As Qvarnström emphasized, Sikhism has been neglected within the broader study of Indian religions, but should from now on make an integral part of the regular curriculum at Lund University.
Gurinder Singh Mann, professor of Sikhism at University of California, Santa Barbara, and director for the Centre of Sikh and Punjab Studies at the university, gave a comprehensive introduction to the Sikh history, religion and available textual sources in the study of Sikhism. He explained how Sikh scholarship and exegetical traditions were established at an early stage of the Sikh community and how different kinds of indigenous scholarship and Western studies on the Sikhs have evolved over the centuries.

Shinder Thandi and Gurinder Singh Mann, two of the lecturers.

Dr. Shinder Thandi, economist from Coventry University, continued with a presentation on the Sikh migration to Europe, especially United Kingdom, and the Sikh Diaspora situation. He presented some typical migration routes from the Punjab, new statistics on the European Sikh population, as well as Sikh self-representations and challenges in relation to the majority society.

The sociologist Dr. Constance Waeber Elsberg from Northern Virginia College gave a lecture on Yogi Bhajan and his followers in America who converted to Sikhism in the 1970s. Additional to the historical background of the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy organization) movement under Yogi Bhajan’s leadership, Elsberg paid attention to the social reasons behind adherence to the movement and the new gender ideology that was constructed in opposition to norms in the American society.
Based on an ongoing fieldwork among the Sikhs in Frankfurt Dr. Michael Nijhawan, an anthropologist from University of Heidelberg, presented some of the challenges Sikhs are facing in the German society and how ritual performances play a significant role in creating a new self-representation.

Dr. Catarina Kinnvall, who is working at the Department of Political Science at Lund University, gave a lecture on the rise and fall of Sikh nationalism and addressed theoretical issues related to the interpretation of Sikh identity, nationalism and globalization.

Distribution of food to the workshop participants, from the communal kitchen in the Sikh gurudwara in Malmö.

In the last workshop session representatives of Sikh communities in Scandinavia introduced their religious organization and activities for the audience. Parvinder Singh Randhawa from Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha in Copenhagen gave a presentation on the Sikh population in Denmark, the construction of a Sikh temple, as well as the creation of a Danish Sikh website (www.sikh.dk) in an attempt to reach out and educate the broader society on Sikhism.
Darshan Singh from Gurdwara Sangat Sahib in Tullinge highlighted some of the challenges the Sikhs in Stockholm are facing as neighbours of a newly built gurudwara have carried a lawsuit against the Sikh temple to the Supreme Administrative Court.

Gurdeep Singh Mahal from the Sikh Cultural Association in Lund and Malmö gave a speech on community activities, and a large number of the community members who live in southern part of Sweden and representatives from the Indian Association Skåne participated in the workshop program and the dinner buffet in the evening.

In the end of the day Prof. Staffan Lindberg kindly presented SASNET’s activities and the magazine Sydasien for the audience.

On Sunday 20 March the international guest scholars and representatives from Lund University and Oslo University were invited to the Sikh gurudwara in Malmö to participate in the religious service, which included recitations from the Sikh scripture (Guru Granth Sahib) and distribution of food from a communal kitchen (langar).
Prof. Gurinder Singh Mann delivered a speech on how education and outreach to the society are historically embedded within the Sikh tradition, and the import of introducing and supporting university courses on Sikhism in order to create a better public understanding of the religion and its presence in Scandinavia.

One general conclusion of the workshop was a call for more research studies in Sikh and Punjab Studies, especially studies on the European Sikhs and their communities, which is a field that remains untouched by scholars. As many speakers also emphasized, there is a need of establishing courses on Sikhism within the regular university programs in religious studies in Scandinavia. Hopefully, Lund University will be the first university in Northern Europe to initiate and develop courses on Sikhism in close cooperation with universities abroad, international networks, as well as the local Sikh communities.

See the full program for the Workshop on Sikh and Punjab Studies at Lund University (as a pdf-file)

                                                                                   Kristina Myrvold

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Last updated 2005-03-31