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Women in the Sikh world

NMU professor pens new book

Jaspal Kaur Singh, a professor at Northern Michigan University, has written a book titled “Violence and Resistance in Sikh Gendered Identity.” The book deals with Indian literature and identity formation of Sikh women, among other topics. (Photo courtesy of Jaspal Kaur Singh)

MARQUETTE — Jaspal Kaur Singh, a professor in the Northern Michigan University Department of English, has authored a book, “Violence and Resistance in Sikh Gendered Identity.”

“Women’s voices, as in most cultures, they are repressed, and so within n my community also, it’s the same story,” said Singh, who noted that the image of the Sikhs is always of a man with a turban and a beard.

“Whenever we talk about Sikhs or Sikhs’ issues, women are sort of subservient to that,” Singh said. “Whether they face violence in India or whether they face racism in the U.S., it’s always the male, whereas women do face all of those things.”

The topic had been on her mind for a while since those issues concerned her.

So, Singh decided to write a book.

The book’s publisher, Routledge India, has a short explanation of the novel at Routledge.com.

“This book examines the constructions and representations of male and female Sikhs in Indian and diasporic literature and culture through the consideration of the role of violence as constitutive of Sikh identity,” the descriptions reads. “How do Sikh men and women construct empowering identities within the Indian nation-state and in the diaspora?

“The book explores Indian literature and culture to understand the role of violence and the feminization of baptized and turbaned Sikh men, as well as identity formation of Sikh women who are either virtually erased from narratives, bodily eliminated through honor killings or constructed and represented as invisible.”

The book, according to the publisher, looks at the role of violence during critical junctures in Sikh history, including the Mughal rule, the British colonial period, the Partition of India, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India and the terror of 9/11 in the United States.

“The author analyzes how violence reconstitutes gender roles and sexuality within various cultural and national spaces in India and the diaspora,” it said. “She also highlights questions related to women’s agency and their negotiation of traumatic memories for empowering identities.

The publisher believes the book will interest scholars, researchers and students of postcolonial English literature, contemporary Indian literature, Sikh studies, diaspora studies, global studies, gender and sexuality studies, religious studies, history, sociology, media and films studies, cultural studies, popular culture and South Asian studies.

Singh, who hails from Burma, received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Oregon. Having taught at NMU for almost 20 years, her specialty is world literature.

Singh was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Gender in Africa, James S. Coleman African Studies Center, UCLA and a Fulbright Nehru Senior Scholar in India.

Not new to writing, her publications include a monograph, a co-authored book and three co-edited books.

Lewis R. Gordon, honorary president of the Global Center for Advanced Studies, wrote in a review of Singh’s new book: “Nuances of class, gender, sex and sexuality are brought to the fore, with many once-silenced Sikh women’s voice coming forth, and so, too, the complex dynamics of the internal diversity of Sikhs and the wider worlds in which they live.”

Rejendra Chetty, a professor at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, also had a favorable review.

“This book provides an eloquent self-awareness and a rare glimpse into the complexities of Sikh identity,” Chetty wrote.

Singh said Sikhs have a monotheistic religion, meaning they believe in one God.

“At least as far as the religious book is concerned, women are given equal rights as men, except culturally,” Singh said.

In that cultural vein, she noted women still are considered less than men with second-class status.

Singh, an American citizen, is aware that’s the same with any culture in the world, but there are varying degrees of oppression.

India has made advances for women in areas such as stalking and harassment, she pointed out, but marital rape still is not considered rape.

“So, they’re still fighting for those rights,” Singh said.

Singh’s book is available on Routledge and Amazon. An ebook sells for for $55 while a hardcover textbook version also is available for $155.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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