Turban as Idol and Icon: Personal Reflections on the Gift of Form

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

IDOL: What if it is the gaze that creates the idol and not the idol that creates the gaze? What if the gaze that creates the idol can only do so if it becomes fixed – at the expense of other forms? What if the turban is fixed not only by the ignorance and conniving of a global media machine that manufactures terror, as a sign of wayward violence, but also fixed by a gaze internal to the Sikh community as the symbol of absolute good or right?

ICON: What if the turban becomes the finite site upon which the infinite shines? What if the turban as an icon demands the viewer never fix his or her gaze only on the turban as absolute good but proliferate this gesture to view all other forms likewise ad infinitum?

What if the Idol and Icon are not two classes of being where one is right and the other is wrong, but two ways of being and perceiving – such that the point of whether something, in this case the turban, is seen as idol or icon depends upon the viewer and his or her engagement? What has the viewer seen?

This free lecture is Organized by SFU Sikh Students Association and sponsored by the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society Vancouver. When: Saturday October 3, 6-8 p.m., at Theater Room 2600, SFU Surrey Campus 250-13450-102 Avenue, Surrey. Refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. RSVP is recommended due to limited seating. For information or RSVP, contact Gurwinder Singh, Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society at (604) 789- 4349 or e-mail at sikhi4all@gmail.com.

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    The Kashmir conflict 1989-2009 is a representation of ‘fundamentalist’ religious empowerment. This conflict is not a stand-alone phenomenon. The origins of this South Asian conflict could be traced back to the fundamentalist Hindutva mindset that preceded the two-nation theory of Pakistan and subsequent Islamisation by decades, especially the way Hindu institutions were protected and flourished during the colonial period. This study develops a framework of understanding how India and Pakistan are constantly perched on the precipice of war since 1947, caught in “a paired-minority conflict”, engaging occasionally in the battleground but increasingly in games of stealth and intelligence. Indian strategic culture does not accept the legitimacy of Pakistan while the latter is entangled in the mindset of strategic inferiority and displaying a lack of professionalism. The nuclear tests of 1998 transformed India into a winner and an emerging power, whereas Pakistan is on the verge of a collapse and struggling for foreign aid. This study develops an argument on how this fundamentalist conflict gradually progressed to an insurgency in Kashmir with implications beyond South Asia.
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    To read this dissertation, which also includes a sub-section on Punjab, please click:



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