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University of Derby Annual Academic Literature in Society Public Conference – Anisha Kaur Johal’s Panjabi Literature Research Paper given the green light

Conflict, Colonialisation & Cultural Evolution – the Impact of the British Raj on Panjabi Literature

What is the significance of Panjabi Literature?  How did the British Raj impact Panjabi Literature?  How has Panjabi Literature evolved over the centuries?  Well, this is what my group’s conference paper will be exploring in this year’s annual University of Derby Literature in Society public conference on Friday 11th May 2018.

The Panjab was torn between India & Pakistan during partition in 1947

As a second year student studying a 4 year Integrated Masters Degree in English at the University of Derby, I am studying the Literature in Society Conference module this semester for 12 weeks.  This consists of myself and two colleagues working together to research, write and deliver a 20 minute conference paper relating to this year’s topic.  This year we have been assigned the topic of Global Literatures – Britain, Europe and the World.

The relationship between the British & the Sikhs/Panjab has an imense historical significance with hundreds of thousands Sikhs fighting for the British during both World Wars, Maharaja Duleep Singh being brought to Britain by Queen Victoria and Sophia Duleep Singh being a key member of the Suffragette movement

As a British Panjabi, I have always been strongly connected to my cultural roots, wanting to immerse myself fully in my Panjabi culture.  When we were told this year’s conference title I instantly knew that this would be my chance to explore Panjabi Literature in an academic light.  I now had to conduct some research into the area and write a strong proposal to gain interest by my group and approval by lecturers that Panjabi Literature is what my group should study.  After a few weeks of independent research, collectively devising five diverse proposals and presenting my Panjabi proposal to the panel, I was delighted that the lecturers had chosen my Panjabi Literature idea as the strongest and most worthy of pursuing!  So here it is, my title for our conference paper:  Conflict, Colonialisation & Cultural Evolution – the Impact of the British Raj on Panjabi Literature.

We have decided to explore the evolution of Panjabi mythology by focusing on the Heer Ranjha tale, considering the representation and perspective of females.  From its origins in Waris Shah’s epic poem Heer, to Amrita Pritam’s Ode to Waris Shah written in 1947 during partition, to modern day allusions to the tale, we will be delving into the evolution of the folk tale in 3 eras; pre, during and post British Raj.

The classic folk tale of Heer Ranjha has evolved over the centuries & continues to play a prominent role in Panjabi music

However, due to Panjabi Literature studies being a fairly new area of academic study, there are not a substantial amount of secondary academic sources relating to the topic.  Another difficulty encountered whilst brainstorming ways to narrow down our idea of Panjabi Literature into a focused topic was finding primary texts; we NEED the ORIGINAL texts to be translated from Panjabi into English in order to study them.  So if ANYONE knows any of the following, please do get in touch with me:

  • Academics/experts in the field
  • Textbooks
  • Websites
  • Articles
  • Journals
  • Primary texts (Panjabi Literature translated into English) – Poems, Novels, Prose, Plays, Songs

Some key Panjabi literary figures include: Puran Singh, Vir Singh, Nanak Singh, Diwan Singh, Mohan Singh, Ishwar Nanda, Waris Shah, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Dhani Ram Chatrik, Avtar Singh Sandhu, Amrita Pritam

If you have any suggestions or recommendations that don’t directly relate to our topic but are linked to Panjabi Literature, please do let me know as I am interested in completing my dissertation and Masters Degree in this field.

Panjabi Diaspora writings tend to reflect the cultural evolution of the Panjabi culture post British Raj & includes the likes of: Bali Rai, Narinder Dhami, Satnam Sanghera, Jasvinder Sanghera, Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, Meera Syal

You can catch me on BBC Radio Derby at 7:45pm on Sunday 04th March 2018, where I will be taking listeners through the musical evolution of the classic Panjabi folk tale Heer Ranjha tale and how this relates to our project.

Catch me on the BBC Aj Kal show on 04.03.18 where I will be taking you on a musical journey showcasing the evolution of the classic Panjabi folk tale of Heer Ranjha

So, if you want to learn more about Panjabi Literature, find out how the British Raj impacted Panjabi Literature and how Panjabi Literature has evolved over time, make sure to attend the FREE conference at the University of Derby on Friday 11th May 2018!

Panjab, Panjabi, Panjabiyat!

By Anisha Kaur Johal

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Twitter: @AnishaJohal

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Email: [email protected]