Welcome to Punjabi Studies at UBC

The Department of Asian Studies at UBC represents the premiere department in Canada dedicated to the study of Asia, and indeed is among the strongest in North America overall. The Department is responsible for teaching a wide range of languages and their literatures, cultural history, and linguistics. Punjabi occupies a central place in the Department’s South Asia program, and represents one of the largest and longest-standing Punjabi-language programs in the world, outside of South Asia.

Punjabi Studies is flourishing at UBC. We have a full program of Punjabi language classes from the first to third years, and have now initiated a new fourth-year program that offers advanced classes in Punjabi literature. For example, in 2016-7 we offered Punjabi 402, which explores the qissa or narrative “Hir-Ranjha” by Waris Shah,for the first time (it will be taught again in Term 1 of W2017) and in 2015-6 we offered PUNJ 401, exploring devotional literature in Punjabi, for the second time. The Punjabi Studies program features an oral history component that allows students to delve into the local history and experience of the Punjabi Canadian community: oral history has been integrated into Punjabi language classes in the past at the third-year level, and it is the focus of a new fourth-year level course called “Documenting Punjabi Canada” (ASIA 475) that was first taught in 2015-6 and will be taught again in Fall 2017. Please explore the links above to find out more.  We have recently added a unique undergraduate class on “Punjabi Cinema” that is popular with students, and a new class has been proposed on “Film in South Asia,” which will explore art or parallel cinema across languages in South Asia, including Punjabi. Punjabi material is also examined alongside other vernacular and classical language works in a class on medieval Indian literature in translation (ASIA 358) that is consistently taught in the Department. Cultural production in Punjabi is the focus of the work of several graduate students in the Department, who work on topics such as Punjabi-language theatre, film, performance, and early modern narrative traditions.

The study of South Asian religions is a particular strength of the Department, and Sikh Studies is consistently taught in a popular class called “Asia 376,” the enrolment in which reached 80 in 2015-6 and which in 2016-7 has been taught as a smaller class by one of our Ph.D. candidates. Study of selections of the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition, is prominent in the Punjabi 401 class, as is study of Punjabi sufi poetry by Bulhe Shah. Our PUNJ 402 class focuses on the Qissā or narrative of Hīr-Rāńjhā, in the context of broader Indo-Persianate and vernacular narrative traditions in South Asia and the Sufi prem-ākhyān which predated the Qissā. We have several Ph.D. students working on topics related to early modern and popular religions of Punjab in the Department. As the Chair of the Religion, Literature and the Arts Interdisciplinary Program, Professor Anne Murphy, is working with colleagues on the Program’s Advisory Committee to develop a program of historically grounded cross-cultural and comparative religious courses for students.

Every year our program culminates in an annual event, the Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial program, which brings together our students to present Punjabi-language skits and possibly films (when a class has produced them in a given year), and awards are presented to student Punjabi-language essay contest winners and to a BC-based Punjabi-language writer, in recognition of “lifetime achievement.” We also invite a scholar of Punjabi language, literature and/or culture to address the university community at that time, to allow UBC students and faculty, and members of the wider community, to hear from both new and established figures in the scholarly community. See more in the link above under “Annual Event.”

Find out more about our Annual Event, ongoing and past research and projects, our class-based oral history program, and more, through the navigation links above.