UCSB Summer Programme

Ten years of seeing, studying Punjab
Roopinder Singh

Participants for the 10th annual Punjab Studies Programme with Prof Gurinder S. Mann at Baring Christian College, Batala.

Over 140 international scholars from over 58 universities and 10 countries have studied Punjab, its history, geography, culture, political economy and religious traditions, in a unique programme that marks its 10th year now.

The University of California Summer Programme in Punjab Studies also teaches these students Punjabi, both at beginners and advanced level. Eminent scholars and experts present lectures and workshops to students during the six weeks that the programme runs here every year.

Professor Gurinder Singh Mann, Professor of Sikh and Punjab Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and director of the programme, says while when he started in 1997, the future was not entirely clear, “over the years, there has been such an overwhelming response from students and scholars to participate that the demand has always exceeded the places available.”

Asked about the attributes and attractions of the programme, Prof Mann says it provides scholars from North America and Europe with an important forum for interacting with Punjab-based scholars and experts. Rather then just reading about different communities and religious institutions of Punjab in textbooks, students, during their carefully organised travel tours, are actually able to see and experience Punjab’s living traditions and visit holy places. “It remains the only programme of its kind to promote Punjab studies in India or overseas,” he adds.

What has the programme achieved? It has built and nurtured a scholarly community whose research activity have a strong Punjab focus, the impact of which will last for at least the next generation, says Prof Mann. Several graduates of this programme have completed their PhDs and now occupy faculty positions in major universities across North America and Europe.

The Sikh and Punjab Studies programme at UCSB has emerged as the largest doctoral programme anywhere in the world. The Centre for Sikh and Punjab Studies at UCSB, established by Prof Mann remains the only university-based centre of its kind outside India. Journal of Punjab Studies, a diaspora-based multi-disciplinary magazine promoting scholarship on Punjab and Punjabis living overseas, is being sponsored by the centre. Its special issues provide important reference material on geography, culture and literature of Punjab.

To teach Punjabi to foreign students, new teaching and learning material has been developed. A textbook on Punjabi language learning is almost complete; there is a large repository of audio-visual and textual material, says Prof Mann, full of plans for the future.

This article was published in The Tribune on August 22, 2006