Fighting With Courage and Inspiration: Voice of a Humane Dissident

mahmood_cynthia_web.jpgGo to virtually any diasporan Sikh’s house that has an interest in Sikhi and you will find the ubiquitous blue book. On the cover is a dashing picture of Shaheed Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale. The title: Fighting For Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants. While too few Sikhs actually complete the book to those that are patient and willing, anthropologist Cynthia Keppley Mahmood explores the world of Sikh militants through their own voices, allowing them to air the very humanity that continues to be denied by a totalitarian state machinery.

At a time when even too many Sikh authors and scholars were silent as Dr. Mahmood, herself, laments:

“Sikh Studies,” a traditionally Orientalist field that has consciously steered clear of the topic of conflict in Punjab, even as tens of thousands of Sikhs perished, wants us to look at medieval religious texts while the heart of Sikhism is in flames. If we touch the fire, if then too we burn and say ouch! – then we are shunned. But then again, academia has never done well in perilous times.

The Sikhs found two strong voices who I call our Sikh Bibiyan of the Academy Joyce Pettigrew and Cynthia Keppley Mahmood. In fact, Sikhs who have never had the fortune to meet them, lovingly refer to them by their first names [as if they are part of our family] Joyce and Cynthia [contrast this with those involved in Sikh Studies, who are only known by their last names McLeod, Oberoi, etc.] Cynthias book is a classic and its place on the bookshelf of every diasporan Sikh is every bit warranted. If it is not on yours, make sure to add it.

While all this is covering the familiar, what inspired her to write and give pen to the voices of Sikh militants is every bit as inspiring as those that she interviewed. In my opinion just as those that inspire by fighting for faith and nation, Cynthia is a fighter, gifted with courage and inspiration.

As part of Sikh Chics 1984 and I series, Cynthia reveals her own personal story for the first time:

In this deeply personal account, I describe for the first time how I was assaulted, beaten and raped by a gang of hired thugs or rogue police in a north central Indian state during fieldwork in 1992. A graphic narrative of this event leads into a brief meditation on the sorts of things readers would typically prefer not to know, and on our compulsion as engaged anthropologists to bring them into the conversation anyway. I conclude with the persisting hope of survivors of violence – like many of our ethnographic interlocutors in arenas of conflict – that healing is possible and that change toward justice can occur. Finally, I write of an anthropology that speaks from a spiritual, political and intellectual paradigm which recognizes that, unspoken or not, values of the heart are as central to our field as those of the mind. [Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, Senior Fellow in Peace Studies, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, U.S.A.]

I encourage ALL to read her entire piece.


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6 Responses to “Fighting With Courage and Inspiration: Voice of a Humane Dissident”

  1. sonny says:

    i second jodha's recommendation to read this piece. it's extremely intense, disturbing, and powerful. exposes so much in a deeply personal way with incisive analysis of state sponsored violence and repression. i was blown away

  2. sonny says:

    i second jodha’s recommendation to read this piece. it’s extremely intense, disturbing, and powerful. exposes so much in a deeply personal way with incisive analysis of state sponsored violence and repression. i was blown away

  3. […] and activists such as Cynthia Keppley Mahmood (author of Fighting for Faith and Nation and a champion for human rights), Navkiran Kaur Khalra (daughter of the late Shaheed for human rights, Jaswant Singh Khalra), and […]

  4. […] and activists such as Cynthia Keppley Mahmood (author of Fighting for Faith and Nation and a champion for human rights), Navkiran Kaur Khalra (daughter of the late Shaheed for human rights, Jaswant Singh Khalra), and […]

  5. Deep Hundal says:

    Amazing women. We had facilitated a conference with her as a speaker. She was wonderful and truly inspiring.

  6. Deep Hundal says:

    Amazing women. We had facilitated a conference with her as a speaker. She was wonderful and truly inspiring.