Essays and Articles
2016. Singhs on the Small Screen. A Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Blog. https://blog.undergradresearch.northwestern.edu/blog/conner/
This research blog explores Sikh cultural performance and politics at the 2015 Nagar Kirtan in Yuba City, California, and during the 2014 Liberal Party of Canada MP primaries in Brampton, Ontario. Singhs on the Small Screen was made possible by a Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Grant.
2016. “Sunday, baṛī* Sunday: An Ethnography of the Gurdwara Sahib of Chicago.” In Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal “2015-2016 ‘Best Senior Theses’” Issue, 73-77. https://issuu.com/nurj/docs/creative_116pg_r2
This is an abridged version of my undergraduate thesis, "Sunday, bari, Sunday: An Ethnography of the Gurdwara Sahib of Chicago," which won the Hsu-Wigmore Prize for Best Thesis in Asian Studies. In it, I explore the role and composition of Sikh sacred music (kirtan), along with the structure and flow of the standard Sikh Sunday service.
2017. “Who belongs in the Indian city? – an experiment in defining Indian urbanity.” Culture Monks. https://culturemonks.in/2019/08/05/who-belongs-in-the-indian-city-an-experiment-in-defining-indian-urbanity-by-conner-singh-vanderbeek/
This essay is part of Urban Body : entrapments & releases, a series by Culture Monks, an experimental art/theater/intellectual movement based in Calcutta. Urban Body explores the ways in which Indian urbanity destroy the souls of individuals, and how to move from that: "Writings which helps us to negotiate, envision and determine – to love , to live and progress as individuals & as a collective, in and from – this urban dystopia."
2019. “Changing brands, shifting sites and sights: A reflection on 5X Festival’s programming challenges.” In Rungh, Vol. 6, No. 4. https://rungh.org/changing-brands-shifting-sites-and-sights/.
This article discusses challenges faced by 5X Festival, a diasporic South Asian arts festival held in Vancouver and Surrey, BC, each year. These challenges are reflective of tensions in multicultural societies wherein ethnic minorities are encouraged to express themselves in the cultural mainstream but are then almost always pigeonholed into their perceived ethnic identities.
2019. “To be a child of diaspora: The irreconcilable outsider in Sikh discourse.” In Sikh Formations, 16:1 (2019-20), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17448727.2018.1545192.
This article, which is published in Sikh Formations, explores the conflict between hegemonic Sikh identity politics in diaspora and the fact that diaspora constantly generates difference and fluidity of identities. It is written in response to Michael Nijhawan's 2016 The Precarious Diasporas of Sikh and Ahmadiyya Generations.
2020. “No drone zone, pushing stylistic boundaries: Mohamed Assani's Wayfinder reviewed.” In Rungh, Vol. 7, No. 3. https://rungh.org/no-drone-zone-pushing-stylistic-boundaries/.
I discuss Mohamed Assani's Wayfinder -- a fusion album of sitar conversing with idioms of Western classical music, EDM, jazz, Middle Eastern music, and worldbeat -- through the lens of musical fusion and the power dynamics that label carries.
2020. “Found in Translation: Ruby Singh and the Khan Brothers’ genre-bending musical collaboration.” In Rungh, Vol 7, No 3. https://rungh.org/found-in-translation/.
I discuss Jhalaak, a collaboration between Vancouver-based rapper and emcee Ruby Singh, and the Khan brothers --19th-generation Rajasthani musicians of the Manganiyar tradition. This album blends rap, EDM, qawwali, and Rajasthani folk in a way that stays true to the musical upbringings and talents of both sides.
2020. "Mitraan da Gangster Scene": Punjabi Gangster Music and Internalized Racism in Punjabi Canada. Presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology.
Beginning with a discussion of Punjabi gangster music, I discuss the interrelationship of suspicion by the Canadian state on the Punjabi community of Surrey, BC, of negative stereotypes of new Punjabi immigrants and international students, and how artists in Canada and Punjab alike embrace this negative attention and channel it into a massively popular subgenre of Punjabi music.
2021. "#MovingVancouverFwd: Vancouver Culture/Shift funding revisited." In Rungh, Vol. 8, No. 4. https://rungh.org/movingvancouverfwd/.
This article explores the outcomes of the City of Vancouver's dual-COVID-19 arts-focused relief and Culture|Shift plans, roughly a year into each. This work is done with special attention to (1) where arts relief money is coming from and what its objectives are and (2) how Culture|Shift is addressing broader issues of programming diversity in the city.
2023. "Apoliticism and Hyperreality among Diasporic South Asian Musicians on Social Media During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Presented at IASPM 2023, Minneapolis.
In this conference paper, I explore how diasporic South Asian musicians on social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram publicly articulate their ethnic identities as a form of politics. In lieu of other political concerns, interethnic, interracial, or class-cutting allegiances, diaspora artists are concerned primarily with seeing themselves and their ethnic cohorts in Western popular culture.
2023. "Sikh Sovereignty and Modern Government." In The Sikh World, edited by Pashaura Singh and Arvind-Pal Mandair. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 400-410. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780429455322-40/sikh-sovereignty-modern-government-conner-singh-vanderbeek.
This chapter explores struggles Sikhs face in seeking accommodation, autonomy, self-determination, and sovereignty in modern India, the UK, and North America. Sikh movements for agency, whether based in political parties, activist groups, or community organization, are circumscribed by the power structures within each state and broader vocabularies of modern government. I discuss how Sikhs working to gain recognition and acceptance of their subjectivities and physical markers within state structures are varyingly met with violence, suspicion, or conditional acceptance. This dynamic forces Sikhs to depoliticize their identities in exchange for security and with the hope of escaping violence.
2023. "The Sikh Internet." In The Sikh World, edited by Pashaura Singh and Arvind-Pal Mandair. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 504-512. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780429455322-51/sikh-internet-conner-singh-vanderbeek.
This chapter discusses the Sikh Internet: a collection of websites assembled around the human category of “Sikh” – “Sikh” as a faith-based practice, identity, lifestyle, and body of knowledge. I interrogate how the Internet intensifies identities, discuss the rise of Sikh websites, and trace various consolidating narratives and frameworks of Sikhi and Sikh life/identity these sites construct. For Sikhs, the Internet provides spaces through which the faith and its associated identities and practices can be debated and ultimately standardized. I structure this chapter around the history of various Sikh websites, their objectives, and the vision of Sikh subjectivity they project.
2023. "When does history begin? Religion, narrative, and identity in the Sikh tradition." Material Religion, DOI: 10.1080/17432200.2023.2244375
This is a review of Harjot Oberoi’s When Does History Begin? (2022), a collection of essays that explores what lies just beyond canonical Sikh historical narratives. When Does History Begin? unearths what is missed when we fixate on the great men and movements of Sikh history-making—beyond the history-writing of Macauliffe and Trumpp, the institutionalization of Sikhi by the Singh Sabha and its successor, the SGPC, and the consolidation of Sikh identity around the Khalsa.