Université d'Erfurt

Kiran Sunar: Ehemalige Gast-Doktorandin

Gastdoktorandin am Max-Weber-Kolleg von Januar bis September 2018


Kiran Sunar is a Liu Scholar and a PhD student in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia working under the supervision of Dr. Anne Murphy. Kiran received her BA (Jt. Hons) from McGill University in Religious Studies and Gender Studies, and an MA from the University of British Columbia in English Literature focusing on literary representations of diasporic Sikh masculinity in Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani and Ranj Dhaliwal’s Daaku. Her PhD project attends to questions of gender, religion, sexuality, and the fantastical in South Asian literatures with a focus on Punjabi literature in the early modern period (16th to 18th century). Kiran also holds interests in cinema studies, critical theory, and social justice.

As an interdisciplinary scholar who is also involved in creative work on the complexity of Punjabi identity, Kiran is working on a novel entitled Nerve and is also involved, from time to time, in performance work. In relationship with her academic work, Nerve engages alternate readings of Punjabi sexualities, as well as questions of migration, trauma, and agriculture.

From January 2018 until October 2018, Kiran will be a guest doctoral student at the Max Weber Kolleg involved in the research project, “Religious Individualization in the Historical Perspective” under the supervision of Dr. Martin Fuchs.


Sunar’s dissertation, entitled “Gender, Sexuality, Religion, and the Fantastical in Punjabi Narrative Traditions (the Qissā),” aims to directly challenge the marginalization of Sikh and Muslim lives by re-centering Punjabi regional texts, oral traditions, and performance as literature. She unearths the rich narrative universe of Punjabi gender and sexuality through an analysis of the Punjabi qissā narrative in the early modern period (16th to 18th century) – a set of influential texts that depict complex religious and cultural continuities, and ones that work as alternate sources to colonial misrepresentations of religious identity.

Her interests align with larger questions about self and other in the Punjabi Bhakti and Sufi traditions and religious hybridity and self-formation (Murphy), but with a focus on the topic of the qissā. More specifically, during her time at the Max Weber Kolleg, Sunar will engage the question of the fantastical, or the unreal, and its possibilities for re-conceptualizations of history and liberation, to ask: what is the renegotiation of the religious self and other at the site of the wondrous within these narrative texts? Further, how do the complex negotiations of gender and the fantastical within the Punjabi qissā participate in the interplay of religious self and other? 

Her research engages these texts in relation to the surrounding multilingual cornucopia of traditions that were in flux in early modern Punjab (an area that today lives across the border of the contemporary nation-states of India and Pakistan, and experienced immense communal and cultural violence from the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan) to gain a better sense of these traditions and their relationships and intentions. Further, Kiran also looks at contemporary manifestations and receptions of these traditions asking how they can be and are used to engage issues of gender and sexuality, and Punjabi identity today.

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