Democratizing Academic Research

bgurdas.jpgGuest blogged by Pataka

As a student interested in Sikhism, visiting the library can be a somewhat dismal affair. Searching for academic works on Sikhism leads to few results. Searching for specific topics within Sikhism for example, gender and Sikhism, lead to even fewer results.

The elitist institutionalization of scholarly research has often excluded marginalized groups and voices: those whose native language is one other than English, members of the working class who cannot afford to pay tuition and fees, single parents, seniors, people living with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and so on. Its no stretch to imagine that one of the reasons that there is such little research available on Sikhism is due to the fact that we are a marginalized community, both in India and in the diaspora.

While many professional networking organisations targeting Sikhs exist, the elitist spin on these events exclude those who may not be professionals students, stay-at-home parents, the unemployed or retired. A push towards inclusive, collaborative open-access community events highlighting Sikh research can foster healthy debates, increase social interaction between different generations of Sikhs on topics of interest, and ensure that Sikh history and Sikh thought are included within the large canon of scholarly literature. Democratizing academic research can also facilitate collaborations between academics and Sikh community groups on issues of concern.


Thankfully, the community of researchers interested in Sikh thought is growing. While gurdwaras have always been important sites of debate and discussion, up until now few opportunities have existed for fledgling academics to present and discuss their work. Last year, the first annual Sikholars conference took place in California, and the second conference will be taking place at the end of this month. Aimed at graduate students whose research focuses on Sikhism, the event will feature a number of panels on topics ranging from textual analysis to media studies to Sikh philosophy. It is precisely these kinds of much needed events that will ensure a vibrant future of Sikh research , foster a growing community of young Sikh academics, and aid us in becoming Sikhs in the literal sense of the word. Imagine walking into a library to search for books on Sikhism and having more options than you can handle. Now wouldnt that be fabulous?

Note: Sikholars has decided to provide a livestream of the 2011 conference taking place later this month, February 26th and February 27th. The livestream intends to open up participation to the wider community through comments and questions to the speakers throughout the conference. To watch or participate visit www.sikholars.org . They are also looking for volunteers for the livestream. Contact [email protected] if youre interested.


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6 Responses to “Democratizing Academic Research”

  1. Pataka says:

    I am also happy to report that there is a new initiative starting out in Toronto called SAFAR: Journeys through Sikh Feminist Research which aims to bring out scholars (women, men and anyone in between) writing and researching on Sikhism from a Feminist perspective. More details and information will be forthcoming!

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  4. […] Below the fold, as promised are uploaded copies of some of the papers (we did not receive permission from all the Sikholars to upload their papers due to ongoing research, publication in academic journals, etc.). These papers will be made available for one month as per our goal of greater democratization of research. […]

  5. […] Below the fold, as promised are uploaded copies of some of the papers (we did not receive permission from all the Sikholars to upload their papers due to ongoing research, publication in academic journals, etc.). These papers will be made available for one month as per our goal of greater democratization of research. […]

  6. Suppose for a while, a poor and highly educated person wants to enjoy the exquisiteness and beauty of the biggest African Lake Victoria Lake. But unfortunately, he has nothing special except the blessing of the education.