Understanding Sikhism: A Roundtable on Contemporary Sikh Studies

April 23, 2021 - 6pm

Virtual Event

Moderated by Sunit Singh & Mayher Kaur

Although Sikhs were some of the first South Asians to settle in the United States, the scholarly study of Sikhism has been late to arrive at the scene. Mark Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month in Illinois on April 23 by joining our roundtable discussion with a slate of senior scholars in the field who will speak about their own connections to Sikhism and talk about new directions and challenges in contemporary Sikh Studies. The event will be moderated by Sunit Singh, Assistant Instructional Professor in the College, and introduced by Mayher Kaur of the Sikh Students Association. 

Sponsored by COSAS, Sikh Students Association, and the Office of Spiritual Life at the University of Chicago.


Balbinder Singh Bhogal, Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies and a professor in Religion at Hofstra University is the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra University and a Professor in the Department of Religion. His PhD was titled: Nonduality and Skillful Means in the Hymns of Guru Nanak: Hermeneutics of the Word, 2001 from London University, School of Oriental and African Studies. His primary research interests are South Asian religions and cultures specializing in the Sikh tradition, particularly the Guru Granth Sahib, its philosophy, and exegesis. He will talk about the categories of
“religion” and “tradition” and how they relate to GurSikh Dharam. For PDFs of his publications see:

A public-facing scholar of Gurbani Kīrtan, Inderjit N. Kaur has made several critical interventions in Sikh studies: on the meaning of the term ghar in the musical designations in Guru Granth Sahib (2008); on the circulation of the term gurmat sangīt among scholars, musicians, and congregations (2011); and on authenticity debates about musical styles among various stakeholders (2016). Her work aims to (re)present the voices and views of everyday Sikhs, rather than simply detail her own interpretations. Building on a life-long immersion in Sikhi and kīrtan, and deep engagement with Gurbani, and drawing from ethnography, Kaur’s research focuses on the lived experience of musical worship. Her forthcoming book on Sabad Kīrtan with Oxford University Press is a multilayered discussion of its three main styles – light, AKJ, and classical, in their historical and musicological dimensions, and as affective and embodied modes of ethical shaping of the worshipper. In 2005, she founded the Sikh Music Heritage Institute ( and published the first ever DVD of historical sabad compositions, sung by an 11th generation kīrtankār. Kaur holds PhDs in economics and in ethnomusicology, both from UC Berkeley, and is currently a Professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. To view more of her work, please visit: Phenomenology of Ras(a), Ecology of Sonic Worship, Styles and Stances in Sikh Sabad Kīrtan, Sikh Shabad Kīrtan and Gurmat Sangīt, Meaning of Ghar, PhD dissertation 

Arvind-pal Mandair, Associate Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan, holds doctoral degrees in the fields of Chemistry and Philosophy/Religion. He has held endowed chairs in Sikh studies at two different institutions (Hofstra University and the University of Michigan). From September 2021 onward he will be the S.B.S.C. Endowed Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan. Grounded in South Asian and Sikh studies, his current research and teaching interests include: World Philosophies, continental philosophy, postcolonial theory, translation studies, history and theory of religions, political theory, and more recently, spirituality and consciousness studies. His three new books, which are either in press or forthcoming, are: (i) Spiritual Warriors: Violence and Non-Violence in Sikhism, Cambridge University Press (2021); (ii) Sikh Philosophy, Bloomsbury Academic Press, (forthcoming 2022); (iii) Geophilosophical Encounters: Decolonial Praxis, Diasporic Logics & Sikh Thought. Earlier book publications include Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality and the Politics of Translation (Columbia University Press, 2009); Sikhism: A Guide For the Perplexed (Bloomsbury 2013); Secularism and Religion-Making (with Markus Dressler, Oxford 2011); Teachings of the Sikh Gurus (with Christopher Shackle, Routledge 2005). He is Editor of Sikhism: Vol. 8 of the Encyclopedia of Indian Religions. He has also published numerous articles in journals and book chapters. Arvind-Pal S. Mandair is founding editor of the Routledge journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture and Theory and edits two new book series: Routledge Critical Sikh Studies and Routledge Studies in Translation and Religion. He also serves on the editorial board of journals such as Culture and Religion, and Religions of South Asia. For more information, please visit: 

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is the Crawford Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Colby College. Dr. Singh has published extensively in the field of Sikh studies. Her books include The First Sikh (Penguin, 2019), Hymns of the Sikh Gurus (Penguin, 2019), Birth of the Khalsa (SUNY 2005), and Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (Cambridge University Press, 1993). She has served on the editorial board of several journals including the History of Religions, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Sikh Formations, and CrossCurrents. She is the Vice-President ΦBK, Beta Chapter of Maine. 

Zoom link: