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Arvind Pal Mandair
S.B.S.C. Assistant Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan

Presented by the Hindu Studies Colloquium

Thu Nov 25
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Munk School, 108N, North House

Much of contemporary discourse about the emergence of democracy and political sovereignty can be traced to modern narratives linking the rise of the nation-state in Europe to the separation of church and state. Thus the idea that concept of sovereignty is the exclusive property of the modern nation-state has become part of the myth of liberal modernity. In this lecture I want to critically examine the doctrine of Guru Khalsa (the idea that sovereignty is (jointly) located in the order of the Khalsa) by reading the event of the Khalsa’s creation in 1699 as a narrative drama that deals intrinsically with the loss of the sacred (or the death of the god-king) as an essential step on the way to the achievement of a political community (imagined or otherwise). Although my talk will make reference to the deployment of the central myth at the heart of the Khalsa narrative in different time periods (specifically the 18th century and in the late 20th century) as a means for gathering the Sikh community, the crux of my argument will focus on the political theology of the event. I shall argue that the loss of the sacred enacted by the 10th Guru of the Sikhs as part of his new initiation ceremony in 1699, inverts the normative myth of the nation state and gives rise to radically different notions of sovereignty, political community and democracy.

Arvind Mandair is S.B.S.C. Assistant Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan. His recent publications include: Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality and the Politics of Translation (Columbia University Press, 2009); Secularism and Religion-Making co-edited withwith Markus Dressler (Oxford University Press, in press 2011). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus (Routledge, 2005) co-authored and translated with Christopher Shackle; He edits the journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture and Theory and is Assistant Editor of the journal Culture and Religion, both published by Routledge.
Sponsored by Department and Centre for the Study of Religion; Co-sponsored by Asian Institute and Centre for South Asian Studies