On Saturday 28 October 2023, Wolfson College at the University of Oxford hosted an academic conference managed by the Sikh Education Council in partnership with Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara Leicester, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall and members of the Punjab Research Group, titled ‘Changing Global Order: Nations and States‘. The day-long event provided attendees with the opportunity to hear four speakers present their papers on the present and future condition of our world with a focus on global powers, conflict and rights. Every seat was taken in the auditorium at the notable venue with ample time provided for questions to each speaker, complimented by networking and discussions in regular refreshment breaks.
A wonderful welcome was provided to attendees and speakers alike by Associate Professor of Hindi at Wolfson College, Professor Imre Bangha who inaugurated the conference with an impressive opening in Punjabi.
He was followed by host and main organiser, Professor Pritam Singh, who presented his paper titled ‘Spatial Shift in Global Capitalism‘, with questions chaired by Dr Liz Perez of Oxford University.
Dr Farah Mihlar of Oxford Brookes University spoke next, delivering her paper titled, ‘Using a decolonial lens to understand authoritarianism and majoritarianism: with special reference to Sri Lanka‘ with questions chaired by Dr Gurnam Singh from the University of Warwick.
Durham University’s Dr Simon Pirani was the penultimate speaker presenting, ‘The Global South and the 21st century empires with special reference to Ukraine‘ with questions chaired by Dr Raj Singh Mann from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Concluding proceedings was a paper presented by the Sikh Education Council’s chairperson Dr Pargat Singh, co-authored with his colleague Dr Jasvir Singh, the Director of Research at the SEC, titled ‘Nation State, Collective Rights, and the case of the Sikh community‘. Questions were chaired by Dr Meena Dhanda from the University of Wolverhampton and visiting Professor at the London School of Economics.
All four papers were subject to robust questioning with a great deal of conversation continuing into the refreshment breaks. Many of the academics present were pleased to see that the subject matter was provoking such enthusiastic discussion, particularly among the largely youthful attendees from the Leicester and Southall institutions, as well as the Sikh Education Council’s own younger guests. SEC Chairperson, Dr Pargat Singh remarked, “The future of nations and states may well be precarious, but the future of the Sikh nation is anything but, going on what we saw today from our inquisitive young minds.“
The conference heralded a number of important announcements including teasing the impending relaunch of the International Journal of Sikh Studies by Dr Jaskiran Kaur of the Sikh Education Council who is the new Managing Editor overseeing a revamped editorial board.
The most significant announcement was reserved for the presiding convener of the conference, Professor Pritam Singh, sharing comprehensive details of a plan to introduce the ‘Guru Nanak Junior Research Fellowship’ at Wolfson College, subject to garnering sufficient funding. The holder of the position will undertake research related to the culture of the Punjab from 1450 CE to the present with particular reference to the teachings and the traditions established by Guru Nanak. They will be encouraged and supported in building strong partnerships with relevant departments at Oxford and will be expected to publish widely within the fields of the humanities and/or social sciences. The fellowship would normally be tenable for a period of three years and requires financial support of approximately £180,000. Interested donors are asked to contact the Sikh Education Council for further information and details of how to donate.