Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exploring the concept of Sovereignty

Start Time: Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 4:30pm
End Time: Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 6:00pm
Location: University of California, Berkeley

The broader concept of Sikh political sovereignty has its roots in the times of the Sikh Guru Sahiban. However, this experience was reformulated by various ideologues over a period of a century, beginning in the late 19thC. The political theologies underpinning this Sikh concept of sovereignty came to be crystallized through a seemingly contradictory procedure of theologizing and historicizing indigenous terms and concepts, and in this very process elevating them into the universalizing discourse of modernity. Though rarely recognized this modernist Sikh ideology made a significant philosophical break with the very sources of Sikh literature that inspired them in the first place, notably the teachings of Sikh Gurus in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In this respect the resultant modernist concept of Sikh sovereignty did not turn out to be qualitatively different from the political theologies that comprised the Indian nation state’s concept of sovereignty. Yet the fate of these two sovereignties, as we well know, was very different, with the very idea of Sikh sovereignty being effectively excluded from the public sphere and national discourse as communal, sectarian etc. In many ways the results of this exclusion are reflected in the troubled relationship between the State with its self-designation as bastion of proper (secular) politics, as opposed to the supposedly religious politics of the Sikhs.

The purpose of this conference is to educate students on how to examine the political philosophy that underpins the Sikh political sovereignty and also to explore possibilities for rethinking indigenous Sikh concepts in light of several inter-related events: the demise of Sikh nationalist movement in the mid 1990’s, the recent crisis of secularism in India, and the emergence of post-secular thinking about the modern construct ‘religion’. If the idea of the secular itself is the source of much confusion about religion, and if Sikh concepts can be conceived as no less secular than they are religious, is it possible to re-conceptualize a Sikh political theology that is closer to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus? What might a post-nationalist Sikhism look like? And what would be the political (in terms of community formation) and psychological (spiritual) implications of such a development? Is it possible to rethink the ethico-political foundations of Sikh thought, and thus to consider the relationship between Sikhs and the State, not as a problem, but as an aporia, an irresolvable contradiction?

Workshop on Sikhi and the Concept of Sovereignty

Note: Participants will be expected to have read Religion and the Specter of the West and additional readings to be provided before the workshop.

Thursday June 17th

Evening Session: (4.30 pm -6.30 pm):
• Introductions
• Why Sikhi and Sovereignty?
• The Meanings of Sovereignty
• Politics and Ownership of the Concept

Friday June 18th

Morning Session:
• Transformations of Sovereignty in Modernity
• Modernity as Crisis
• Transcendental Apparatus and the Sovereignty Machine
• Secularism and Religion-Making

Afternoon Session 1: How Modern Sikhism Inherited its Current Notions of Sovereignty
• Overview of Sikh Politics from the Guru Period to the Modern Times
• Modern Sikh formulations of the Sovereignty Principle

Afternoon Session 2:
Hiking Trip

Saturday June 19th

Morning Session: Today’s Challenges: Rethinking the Concept of Sovereignty In Sikhi
• Reading concepts such as: quam, panth, miri-piri, sant sipahi in a non-dual manner.
• Role of Akal Takht Sahib in Precolonial and Colonial Era

Afternoon Session 2:
• Sovereignty and the Khalsa
• Shabad-Guru and Soverignty
• Experience as Sovereignty

Sunday June 20th

Symposium on Religion and the Specter of the West

Chair: Balbinder Singh Bhogal (Hofstra University)

Morning Session (9.00 am to 10.30 am):

Ananda Abeysekara (Virginia Tech University)
Ruth Mas: (Cornell University)
Response by Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (University of Michigan)

Morning Session (11.00- 1.00 pm)

Sian Hawthorne (SOAS)
Michael Nijhawan (York University, Canada)
Prabhsharandeep Singh
Response by Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair

Afternoon Session:

2.00 - 5.30 Roundtable and Debate