News | 22 March 2013

UCSC to Hold International Conference on Sikh and Punjabi Studies, March 29-30


(Re-)Building Punjab posterThe UC Santa Cruz Sikh and Punjabi Studies program will present an international conference titled (Re-)Building Punjab: Political Economy, Society and Values on campus, March 29-30.

Prominent scholars from Punjab, England, and the United States will come together for six sessions, focusing on history, diaspora, politics, economics, the environment, and culture.

UCSC faculty will chair each of the sessions.

“Punjab is a state in the nation of India, but also a state of mind,” said Nirvikar Singh, UCSC’s Sarbjit Singh Aurora Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies.

“The larger geographic region of Punjab was the birthplace of the Sikh religion. The Indian state of Punjab, within that larger region, is the homeland of the Sikhs. But within an economically resurgent India, Punjab is in relative decline, apparently beset by societal and environmental problems,” he added.

Singh noted that the conference will explore the complex relations between the Sikh community and its real and imagined homeland.

It will focus on the historical roots of Punjab’s contemporary society, the state of its politics and political culture, possibilities for economic improvement, the challenges of environmental degradation, the role of diaspora philanthropy, and how Punjab’s situation is expressed in and shaped by music and film as forms of cultural production.

“There is a closing lunch panel that features two very successful Sikh American entrepreneurs who are also very knowledgeable about Punjab, as well as a Sikh filmmaker who has made documentaries on the region,” said Singh.

“The closing panel will seek to draw some lessons from the panelists’ own experiences, and the experiences of the other participants, as well as the presentations and discussions in the conference,” Singh added.

The closing panel is titled “Punjab’s Future: What’s to be Done?”

Singh is co-organizing the conference with Inderjit N. Kaur, a research associate in the UCSC Department of Music and an advisor to the UCSC Sikh and Punjabi Studies program. Kaur is a well-known researcher on Sikh music, and is actively engaged with the Sikh community in education about Sikh music performance and heritage.

UCSC’s Sikh and Punjabi Studies program was established in December of 2010. The following fall, UCSC launched the program’s first course, Introduction to the Sikhs, which was taught by Singh.

A new class providing Punjabi language instruction was offered last summer at a Silicon Valley location accessible to UCSC students as well as community members

The program held its inaugural conference at UCSC in November of 2011 titled Sikh and Punjabi Studies: Achievements and New Directions.

Singh said that the UCSC program hopes to offer a course in Punjabi language in Silicon Valley again this summer, as well as future language courses in 2014, and is discussing possible collaborations with a major university in Punjab.

For more information about the conference, contact Courtney Mahaney at (831) 459-3527,

The UC Santa Cruz Sikh and Punjabi Studies program will present (Re-)Building Punjab: Political Economy, Society and Values, on campus, March 29-30. The conference and dinner are free and open to the public. Conference sessions will take place in the Humanities Building 1, Room 210 each day. Dinner space is limited and attendees can register by emailing Courtney Mahaney

Article written by Scott Rappaport.