In August 2017 CISAR and the Department of Asian Studies hosted a scholarly workshop entitled “Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957): Rethinking Literary Modernity in Colonial Punjab,” organized by UBC’s Anne Murphy (Asian Studies, and co-Director of CISAR) and Professor Anshu Malhotra of Delhi University. UBC hosted a group of scholars from India, the United States, and Canada, who gathered at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada to consider the literary production, thought, and impact of Bhai Vir Singh, a major figure in Sikh religious reform and in the formations of modern Punjabi literature. The program included prominent and emerging scholars from the following institutions: in India, Ambedkar University Delhi, Punjabi University Patiala, Guru Kashi University, and Delhi University; in the United States, from Trinity College, University of Mississippi, and the University of Michigan; and from UBC, three graduate students and one faculty member. Mohinder Singh, Director of the National Institute of Panjab Studies and the Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan in New Delhi, also attended. Three recent graduates from UBC and Kwantlen with Bachelor’s of Arts degrees also participated in a special student panel, further developing papers that theypreviously completed for a Directed Reading course in the Department of Asian Studies. The workshop will result in a subsequent edited volume or journal special issue that will critically analyze this important figure and his contribution, politics, and literary impact in light of our current historical understanding of Punjab and the colonial period.
This workshop was made possible by a Connection Grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, with supporting funds from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Department of Asian Studies, the Centre for India and South Asia Research, the Faculty of Arts, and the Hampton program at UBC. The Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan contributed towards the participation of Dr. Mohinder Singh, the Sadan’s Director.