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Vibrant, Contentions Issues

Surinder S. Jodhka

By J.S. Grewal
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010, pp. xix+419, Rs. 890.00

Edited by Verne A Dusenbery and Darshan S. Tatla
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2009, pp. xviii+312, Rs. 750.00


Sikh religious tradition and the community have been vibrant subjects of research among historians and social scientists. As of any scholarly enterprise, writings on Sikh history have also been a source of contention, among professional historians as well as within the community. The Sikh diaspora has played a critical role in advancing the cause of Sikh studies by engaging with what is being written on the subject and by providing generous financial support in the form of funding specialized chairs in some of the leading universities in the western academic world. Over the years, an active global community of scholars has emerged who teach and research on Sikhism. For quite some time scholarly discourse on Sikhism was mostly dominated by historians and theologians. Anthropological and sociological writings on Sikhism have been rather scanty. The rise of the Khalistan movement during the 1980s generated a sizeable body of research on the political sociology of Sikh ethnicity. Though some of these writings interrogated the social and cultural life of the Sikh community, their primary focus remained politics and violence in the region, viz. the Indian Punjab. One of the implications of such writings has also been the synonymization of Sikhs with the Indian state of Punjab and Punjab with the Sikhs. However, over the last two decades or so we can see a more diverse literature emerging on Sikhism which focuses on contemporary life of the community, its internal diversity and in diverse geographical contexts. The two books being reviewed here, in a sense, bring together the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ in Sikh studies. While J.S. Grewal’s book takes us to the issues that have been of interest to contemporary historians of Sikhism, the volume edited by Dusenbery and Tatla brings together essays on the developmental implications of the growing global spread and economic consolidation of the community. J.S. Grewal has been one of the most prolific historians on Sikhism. His book has a very wide canvas and brings together 14 of his essays written over the last forty years or so. Though some of them have been revised for the volume, as claimed by the author, they reflect an interesting journey of Sikh studies. Though his initial work focused on what could be called classical Sikhism and the life and times of the Sikh Gurus, over the years he has also been commenting on more contemporary issues relating to ...

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