Governing 1984: Dramatic Events and Theatrical Policing

Speaker: Professor Balbinder Singh Bhogal, Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies, Hofstra University

How is the voice of the Nation State constituted? How is the voice of the Sikh constituted?
What kind of power does the Nation State’s voice command? What are the forces in the Sikh voice? How do these two powers or forces constitute subjectivity and mobilize collective action? And how are they related? I will explore the difference between these two registers of power under various contrasting pairs – the key pair will explore the Nation State’s power as a theatrical one, and the Sikh’s strength as a dramatic one. What is the difference between theatre and drama, power and strength? It will be argued that theatrical power is a coercion that manufactures a silence of obedience, whereas dramatic strength inspires a silence of expectation.

How would one move beyond the Nation State’s machinery that can silence the voice of minority protests and enforce the legitimization of particular stereotypes across the media? What are the background legacies of the colonial encounter with Sikhism and how do they shape the current debates on identity and sovereignty? What violence was wrought through the transition to Modernity? Is the Modern only Modern to the extent that it displaces the religious from the public and political space in which various peoples share their imaginations of civil society? We may be able to see the violence of contemporary Modern Nation States, but can we discern the subtle coercive limitations of Secular Nationalism, Ethical Humanism, and Moral Monotheism? Yet who could argue with a liberal secularity, ethics, humanism, morality and monotheism? – aren’t these the very names that define what Sikh are and believe? I would like to argue otherwise, and explore how to imagine alternative visions of our troubled present, and thereby situate the dark year of 1984 in this broader frame – primarily to think differently and generate responses beyond the voice of the victim, the voice of angry protest, and the voice of injustice and law. What is our strength?

This free lecture is sponsored by the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society Vancouver. When: Friday October 2, 6-8 p.m., at Lecture Hall A136, Langara College, 100 West 49th Avenue Vancouver. Refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm.RSVP is recommended due to limited seating. For information or RSVP, contact Indira Prahst, Department of Sociology at (604) 323- 5717 or e-mail at

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