Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal: Help The Community and UCalgary Redefine The Future Of Sikh Studies In Canada

The Sikh community and the University of Calgary are embarking on a partnership to redefine the future of Sikh Studies in the academy by partnering in knowledge production to benefit all of humanity.

Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal
April 5, 2021 | 3.5 min. read

The Sikh community and the University of Calgary are embarking on a partnership to redefine the future of Sikh Studies in the academy by partnering in knowledge production to benefit all of humanity. Our goal is to create a one-of-a-kind program in Sikh Studies that develops integrated, creative, and diverse ways of reimagining local, national, and global futures.

Since 2017, the University of Calgary and the Sikh community have been working hard to create a framework for Sikh Studies centered upon applying Sikh Thought through a multi-disciplinary approach to learning and research to contemporary humanitarian challenges. Following the success of an introductory course in Sikhism, UCalgary Sikh students approached the university administration about expanding Sikh Studies on campus. Soon after, Alumni approached Calgary’s major Gurdwaras and enthusiastic discussions began. The conversation was expanded to include other stakeholder organizations within the Canadian Sikh community to gain deeper insights into how to proceed and is ongoing. 

During early dialogues the university learned about Sikh underrepresentation in course offerings nationally. Concerns about marginalization, discrimination, and systematic violence Sikhs experience globally were also expressed. Students discussed challenges they face in professionalization and striving against stereotypes that remain prevalent.

A dinner and lecture were held in conjunction with Guru Nanak’s 550th Gurpurb celebrations.  The university invited members of the Sikh community for a special lecture on the relevancy of Guru Nanak’s thought in modern societies by preeminent historian Dr. Balwant Singh Dhillon. The community and students gave written feedback at this time about how to start program development. After these discussions, UCalgary conducted independent research on Sikh Studies course offerings in Canada and the Sikh community’s recent history. 

This collaborative approach is the bedrock of how UCalgary will develop a research chair that addresses both community and national needs through cutting-edge research. Both the Sikh community and UCalgary are excited to grow this truly unique partnership.

Sikh Studies is a young but expanding research field. The Sikh tradition is rooted in models of diversity and humanity. Rather than prescribing or defining Sikh Studies, the University of Calgary is committing to work collaboratively with the Sikh community to create a unique model for research, innovation, and exchange. This process seeks to break a history of dictating the terms upon which Sikh Studies chairs have been created.

The University of Calgary and the Calgary Sikh Community are looking to start a three-year limited-term to expand course offerings in Sikh philosophy, literature, culture, and history to allow students to have a minor concentration in Sikh Studies. Graduate M.A. level research will begin while a consultation process for creating a unique research chair in Sikh Thought will enter a larger scope. 

The University of Calgary is providing a portion of the funding needed to begin this process and is requesting $250,000 CAD from the Sikh community. 

Donating between April 1st and 22nd this amount can be reduced drastically. UCalgary is offering limited dollar-for-dollar matching on individual donations between $25 and $2500 dollars. Donating early is crucial as matching funds are limited. The University of Calgary is a charitable institution and will provide tax receipts for all donations. Donations can be made online or by cheque and credit card at the local Calgary Gurdwaras. 

Let us join together in April to celebrate Sikh Heritage Month and Vaisakhi by providing a path toward building knowledge and new futures. Coursework and research in Sikh Studies at the University of Calgary will set out on a new path contributing to the needs of upcoming generations.

To learn more about the project and donate please visit http://ucalgary.ca/giving/sikh-studies


Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal lives and grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. He has a background in Molecular Genetics and Asian Studies. He currently teaches courses in Asian Religion and Sikh Studies at the University of Calgary and Comparative Literature courses at MacEwan University. Harjeet’s research is grounded in creating novel approaches to Sikh literature and philosophy by applying these to current humanitarian questions. You can contact Harjeet via email at harjeet.grewal@ucalgary.ca.

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