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ASIAN 309:  Warrior Saints: Introduction to Sikhism

This course offers a comprehensive overview of the Sikh tradition which originated in India’s Punjab region five centuries ago. By taking Sikhism’s preoccupation with the enigmatic figure of the “Warrior-Saint” (sant-sipahi) as a focus, this course will also examine a variety of different themes including, but not limited to, problems of migration, racial stereotyping, the relationship between violence and mysticism, or politics and religion. As the numbers of Sikhs settling outside of India have continued to grow, students will be encouraged to examine Sikhism in its Indian and global context, focusing on its history, its texts, and its evolution into a living spiritual tradition fully engaged with the political world.

ASIAN 430:  Philosophy of the Sikh Gurus

The Sikh Gurus comprise a unique lineage of ten successive spiritual masters who passed on their teachings through a large body poetic compositions of surpassing beauty and directness that are designed to be sung or recited. These teachings (or gurmat) are now enshrined in the two key scriptures of the Sikh tradition: the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth, both recognized masterpieces of Indian literature. This course will examine the philosophical, spiritual and ethical aspects of these teachings and their relation to contemporary practice. At the heart of this course is the following question: how can we interpret these teachings today in a foreign language such as English, and make them relevant to today’s complex world. Specifically we shall be looking at some of the concepts used by the Sikh Gurus and ask what these terms tell us about the nature of God, the nature of Man, and broader themes such as Time and Language, Self and Mind, Authority, Ethics etc. The course is suitable for upper level undergraduates and Masters students.

ASIAN 580 (Topics):  Sikhism & Modernity

This course looks at the interaction of one of South Asia’s most visible and distinctive communities (the Sikhs) with modernity. The course will bring together South Asian and European imperial history together with scholarship on trans-nationalism and postcoloniality. The course will begin by looking at the creation of the modern Sikh imaginary by mapping the emergence of nationalist discourses on Sikh religion, history and politics, before moving on to study anti-colonial movements such as the Ghaddar movement, the role of Sikhs in the Indian Independence Movement, and Sikh separatism in the wake of the events of 1984. One of our concerns will be to revaluate the shifting, complex and often competing visions of Sikh identity over the last two centuries to the present day. Seminar topics may include, but are not limited to, discussions of contemporary Sikh responses to modern ethical dilemmas; responses to secularism and multiculturalism; capitalism and spirituality; globalization and diaspora; gender; the problem of caste; projections of Sikhs and Punjabis in cinema; music; art; wars of scholarship; notions of community, the internet etc.

ASIAN 319: The Sikh and Punjabi Diaspora

This course looks at the development of one of South Asia’s most visible and distinctive diasporic communities (the Sikhs) and specifically at the Sikh diaspora.  The Sikh Diaspora began in the nineteenth century as former soldiers from the British Sikh regiments began to explore other colonies for opportunities. Sikh have settled across the globe; the two largest Diasporic communities are in England and Canada. Diasporic life presents unique opportunities and challenges for the tradition and nations they have settled in. This course examines how Sikh community networks have adapted to globalization. Students will explore the challenges migration creates in terms of creating alternate community norms through multicultural interaction by diasporas in Canada, England, and the United States. Students examine events and documents reflecting issues faced by the Sikhs such as coverage by news coverage, film, and documents created by community members and mainstream media. Students will discuss how debates on religious identity and human rights, engendered violence, popular culture, visibility, entrepreneurship, and honor killings are shaped by interactions between the Sikh community, other minorities, majoritarian perceptions, and democratic institutions such as the judiciary.


ASIAN 400: India and the West

This course examines the intellectual and cultural encounter between India and the West from the 1770’s to the present day, a period that coincides with the entry of India into the historical experience of colonialism and modernity. It looks at how the discovery of knowledge about India affected debates in modern European philosophy and conversely examines the reception of European ideas in modern Indian thought. One of the outcomes of this encounter is that national culture in India and Europe developed in relation to a shared experience of colonialism in which notions of religion and secularity were crucial in evolving the idea of the nation in both regions. This course will examine how Western discourses of race, religion, secularity, gender and spirituality were internalized by Indian elites and eventually deployed in the formation of socio-political and religious movements of reform and anti-colonial resistance. We shall look at how these reform movements shaped the modernization of three distinct communities - Muslim, Hindu and Sikh – and how encounters between these communities and the British helped to define some of the central problems of Indian democracy today. 

ASIAN 409:  Spirituality and Consciousness

Questioning the ‘mind’ or trying to think about consciousness is a complicated task, taken up by numerous philosophical and spiritual traditions around the world and, more recently, through modern scientific inquiry into the mind and consciousness. The encounter between Asian philosophical traditions and neuroscience in particular is seeing a steadily growing interest in research, conversations, cultural products, and new ways to frame, understand, control and deconstruct the self. Drawing from a variety of practice-based Asian traditions (including Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist and Daoist ) this course will explore the intersection of these two ongoing conversations (scientific and philosophical) to challenge students to engage across the borders of their own experiences, interests, and linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The course itself will begin by looking at the different approaches to consciousness and trying to ascertain whether it is possible to think about a big picture that is able to encompass discourses of consciousness, philosophy/spirituality and neuroscience. Is there a common purpose to these discourses? We will then spend around 3 weeks gaining a grounding in Asian theories of mind/consciousness. After this we spend 2-3 weeks looking at the cultural and scientific discourses of neuroscience. Following the half term break we focus on specific themes or topics which bring together these three discourses. Examples may include: health, meditation, emotions and affects, reality, memory, mystical states, death/dying/rebirth, life practices and techniques.

ASIAN 303: Religious Military Orders of the World

This course looks at the representation in film and literature of some of the more well known militant religious orders, movements and ideas that have combined religion and violence in unique ways. These include movements and orders inspired by Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Daoism and Buddhism . Students will be introduced to the historical, cultural and ethnic contexts in which these movements arose and the influence they exerted in shaping the societies around them. The focus of the course will be to examine: (i)  how each of these movements was able to justify violence in the name of spirituality, and the idea of religious wars; (ii) whether their legacies have managed to survive in the modern world; (iii) the relationship between meditation and the martial arts in Christian asceticism, Japanese aikido, Hindu yoga, Sikh gatka, Zen Buddhism, and Islamic jihad. The course will be taught as a discussion seminar with a very minimal lecture component. The course will involve an analysis of how these traditions have been presented in modern film and cinema. The last two weeks of the course we shall expand our analysis to look at the relationship between war, politics and the modern ‘superhero’. To what extent does the figure of the ‘superhero’ address some of the themes discussed earlier in the semester. As well as regular readings, students will be expected to watch and analyse relevant films and documentaries, and to carry out group projects. Courses assessment will be mainly on the basis of weekly forum posts.

ASIAN 305:  Violence & Religion in a Secular Age

Recent events have brought the debate about the relationship between religion and violence into the foreground of public debate. Do religions justify and cause violence or are they more appropriately seen as forces for peace and tolerance? In the context of secular modernity, religion has been represented by some as a primary cause violence, social division and war, whilst others have argued that this is a distortion of the ‘true’ significance of religion, which when properly followed promotes peace, harmony, goodwill and social cohesion. Coinciding with the global resurfacing of religious violence is the work of the media that can be seen both as a key agent in transforming the public’s reception of the relationship between religion and violence, and in many ways affecting the course of national and international politics itself.  This course will explore the relationship between secularism and the globalization of religion and violence. Specific themes for discussion may include but are not limited to: Reconceptualizing the relationship between religion and violence; Violence as an ideological construct; 9/11 and the War on Terrorism; Racial and Religious Violence in America etc.


Pre-Modern or Classical Punjabi (Dr. Arvind -Pal S. Mandair)

This course is taught as a series of Independent Guided Studies (normally over 2 years) and is designed primarily for graduate students who wish to gain an understanding of the premodern Punjabi language of the Sikh literature and textual materials of the “medieval” period (11th to 17th centuries C.E.). Although Classical Punjabi utilises the same script as Modern Standard Punjabi, its grammar is significantly different. On completing this course students will be able to read and translate from the medieval Sikh and Punjabi texts such as the Adi Granth, Dasam Granth, the works of Bhai Gurdas and related material such as the 18th century Rahitnama and 18th-19th century hagiographical literatures. 

Modern Punjabi Language Courses (Dr. Pinderjeet Gill)

Dr. Pinderjeet Gill teaches two levels of Punjabi language courses taught during the Fall and Winter semesters: First Year Punjabi I, First Year Punjabi II, Second Year Punjabi I, & Second Year Punjabi II.