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(Re-)Building Punjab: Political Economy, Society and Values:
Santa Cruz, California Conference - March 29-30, 2013





The Sikh and Punjabi Studies program in the University of California - Santa Cruz ("USCS"), will present an international conference titled (Re-)Building Punjab: Political Economy, Society and Values on campus, come Friday and Saturday -- March  29-30, 2013.

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 ... 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 [now straddling the subcontinent, between India and Pakistan] was the birthplace of the Sikh religion. The [bifurcated] states of Punjab, within that larger region, constitute 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.

Prof Nirvikar 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 Nirvikar 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,” he added.

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

Nirvikar 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. Inderjit 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 Nirvikar 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.

Nirvikar 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.



8:00-8:45 AM     Breakfast and Registration
8:45-9:00 AM     Welcome
9:00-10:30 AM     Session 1: Sikh Values and Punjab Society in Historical Perspective
Presenter: Prof. Pashaura Singh, Religious Studies, UC Riverside
    “Sikh Values and Punjab Society in Historical Perspective

    Discussant: Dr. Harpreet Singh, South Asian Studies, Harvard University
    Session Chair: Prof. Nathaniel Deutsch, History, UC Santa Cruz
10:30-10:45 AM     Break
10:45-12:15 PM     Session 2: A Case Study of Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab
Presenter: Prof. Van Dusenbery, Anthropology, Hamline University
    “Budh Singh Dhahan and Guru Nanak Mission Medical & Educational Trust: A Case Study of Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab”      

Discussant: Prof. Supreet Kaur, Economics, Columbia University
    Session Chair: Prof. James Clifford, History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz
12:15-1:45 PM     Lunch
1:45-3:15 PM     Session 3: Punjab Politics and Society
Presenter: Prof. Pritam Singh, Accounting, Finance and Economics, Oxford Brookes University
    “Changing Social Values and Political Culture in Punjab: With Special Emphasis on the Period Since 1966″        

Discussant: Prof. Jugdeep Singh Chima, Political Science, Hiram College
    Session Chair: Prof. Ronnie D. Lipschutz, Politics, UC Santa Cruz
3:15-3:30 PM     Break
3:30-5:00 PM     Session 4: The Punjab Economy: Problems and Prospects
Presenter: Prof. Lakhwinder Singh, Economics, Punjabi University
    “Vision for Economic Development in Punjab Economy

    Discussant: Prof. Nirvikar Singh, Economics, UC Santa Cruz
    Session Chair: Prof. Helen Shapiro, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz
5:00-6:30 PM     Break
6:30-9:00 PM     Dinner & Lecture: Reflections on the Columbia/UC Santa Barbara Punjab Summer Program
Presenter: Prof. Gurinder Singh Mann, Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara
    Location: Aquarius Restaurant at the Dream Inn: 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060


8:15-9:00 AM     Breakfast and Registration
9:00-10:30 AM     Session 5: Groundwater in Punjab: Environmental Challenges
Presenter: Prof. Rajinder Singh Sidhu, Punjab Agricultural University
    “Political Economy of Groundwater Resources in Indian Punjab”        

Discussant: Prof. Upmanu Lall, Engineering, Columbia University
    Session Chair: Prof. Ben Crow, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz
10:30-10:45 AM     Break
10:45-12:15 PM     Session 6: Punjab’s Ethical Soundscapes: From Asa ki Var to Dhadi Var and Hip Hop
Presenter: Dr. Inderjit N. Kaur, Music, UC Santa Cruz
    “Punjab’s Ethical Soundscapes: from Asa ki Var to Dhadi Var and Hip Hop”        

Discussion and demonstration: Mandeep Singh Sethi, Hip Hop Artist
    Session Chair: Prof. Linda Burman-Hall, Music, UC Santa Cruz
12:15-2:30 PM     Session 7: Lunch Panel: Punjab’s Future – What’s to be Done?
Panelist: Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany, Sikh Foundation
    Panelist: Dr. Ajit Singh, Artiman Ventures and Stanford University
    Panelist: Mr. Michael Singh, Filmmaker
    Panel Chair: Dr. Inder Mohan Singh, LynuxWorks and Chardi Kalaa Foundation



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 at

[Courtesy: UCSC. Edited for]

March 27, 2013


Conversation about this article

1: Irvinderpal Singh Babra (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), March 27, 2013, 8:10 AM.

First and foremost, India needs to recognize Sikhs as Sikhs, not Hindus ... as per the Article 25 in the Constitution of India. Discuss this at the Sikh Conference in Santa Cruz. Best of luck.

2: Dr Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 27, 2013, 12:50 PM.

"Re-Building Punjab Conference ..."! This seems to take it as a given that Punjab is destroyed, or on a path of destruction. This presumption needs to be explored as a preamble -- because the solution(s) will vary, depending on whether the destruction is determined to be self-induced or as being manipulated by external interests and forces.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 27, 2013, 2:35 PM.

Has anyone been to Punjab lately? The corruption in the state is fully India-style now.

4: Devinder Pal Singh (Delhi, India), March 28, 2013, 3:58 AM.

The malice, corruption, etc., are widespread. May I request the scholars to at least explore as to why this situation? Let's acknowledge the fact that the very same Punjabi that is concerned with the social fabric of the Punjab will move to other parts of the country with elan, conspicuously shelving all concerns in that wooden box (old peyty) which he will open to espouse and sound concerned but never practice. It therefore doesn't matter where he lives. Time we found some who would preach and practice the same from within and without. Let it be a true revival.

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