What: Sikh Studies shot to prominence in the 1980s due to a rising interest amongst scholars in the phenomenon of violence associated with Sikhs and Sikhism, encompassing both insurgent anti-state violence as well as state orchestrated violence against Sikhs in India. By the late 1990s, a body of literature had developed which framed Sikhs and Sikhism in relation to emerging architectures of secular security states and their governance of minorities. One of the cornerstones of this architecture were conventional typologies of violence (that is, a standard definition of what violence is, especially in relation to the category ‘religion’). Tracing these conventional typologies of violence to the liberal imaginary (broadly conceived), this lecture interrogates this normative understanding of violence which continues to be deployed in representations of Sikhism.
I argue that the purpose of such typologies, along with the dominant concept of violence they sustain, is to delegitimize and pacify resistance, irrespective of its particular form: non-violent, activist, alternative modes of thought; and ultimately to circumvent articulations of sovereign existence before the question has even arisen. My talk will draw on aspects of Sikh philosophy to explore an indigenous logic of (non-)violence, illustrating how it might resonate with some of the better known “critique[s] of violence” that circulate in contemporary political theory and political theology. The need to replace conventional typologies of violence with alternative models assumes greater urgency as minority communities (such as Sikhs) are no longer faced with secular security states, but with states that now fully embody more overt forms of religious nationalism. Hosted by Anneeth Kaur Hundle (Assistant Professor, Anthropology) & Sherine Hamdy (Associate Professor, Anthropology).
Location and Date: University of California Irvine (Zoom), Dec. 4th, 2020