SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Mourning Sovereignty: Finitude and Sacred Violence in the Myth of the Khalsa

Professor Arvind Mandair (University of Michigan)

Date: 3 December 2009Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 3 December 2009Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: T102

Type of Event: Seminar

Much of contemporary discourse about the emergence of democracy and political sovereignty can be traced to modern narratives linking the rise of the nation-state in Europe to the separation of church and state. Thus the idea that concept of sovereignty is the exclusive property of the modern nation-state has become part of the myth of liberal modernity. In this lecture I want to critically examine the doctrine of Guru Khalsa (the idea that sovereignty is (jointly) located in the order of the Khalsa) by reading the event of the Khalsa’s creation in 1699 as a narrative drama that deals intrinsically with the loss of the sacred (or the death of the god-king) as an essential step on the way to the achievement of a political community (imagined or otherwise). I argue that this loss of the sacred enacted by the 10th Guru of the Sikhs as part of an initiation ceremony in 1699, inverts the normative myth of the nation state and gives rise to radically different notions of sovereignty, political community and democracy.

Organiser: Dr Cosimo Zene

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