Anne Murphy is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia and, for the 2016-7 academic year, a Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC. Dr. Murphy’s research interests focus on early modern and modern cultural representation in Punjab and within the Punjabi Diaspora, as well as more broadly in South Asia, with particular attention to the historical formation of religious communities and special but not exclusive attention to the Sikh tradition. Her monograph, The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in Sikh Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2012), explored the construction of Sikh memory and historical consciousness in textual forms and in relation to material representations and religious sites from the eighteenth century to the present. She edited a thematically related volume entitled Time, History and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia (Routledge, 2011).  She has published articles in History and Theory, Studies in Canadian Literature, South Asian History and Culture, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and other journals.  As indicated on the list of “current ongoing projects,” below, Dr. Murphy is currently pursuing research on the history of the Punjabi language and the early modern and modern emergence of Punjabi literature. She also has established interests in Punjabi Canadian cultural production. In keeping with this latter interest, in May 2014 she developed a theatrical production at UBC out of three existing plays in English and Punjabi about the Komagata Maru, a ship carrying South Asian migrants to Canada that was turned away from Vancouver in 1914. The production was pursued in partnership with the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC, the students of which performed in the sections of the English-language play, and Rangmanch Punjabi Theatre, whose members performed the portions of the Punjabi-language plays. Students at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore designed and produced the sets with artist Raghavendra Rao K.V. (For more on this production, see She is organizing a creative workshop in May 2017 that will initiate the production of a similarly conceived exploration of the Punjabi narrative of Puran Bhagat with the support of a Peter Wall Institute Arts-based initiative grant.

Current ongoing projects:

Modern Punjabi language and literature across borders: This project documents and analyzes the advocacy movement for the Punjabi language and its literature across national boundaries since the 1940s, with a focus on its secular commitments and its relationship to religious mobilization. She received SSHRC Insight Development grant support for initial research on this project from 2013-5 (extended to 2016) and will pursue related research as a Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies at UBC in 2016-7.

Windows, doors, and streets: The Stories of Pakistani Punjabi writer Zubair Ahmed. This book-length translation of the short stories of Zubair Ahmed is currently underway, with an estimated date of publication in 2017/8. several stories have been published in literary journals (see “Publications”).

Punjabi in the (late) vernacular millennium: The historical formations of Punjabi language and literature: This project examines the historical emergence of the Punjabi language in relation to broader theories of vernacularization in north India, and particularly with reference to religious community articulation. This project emerges out of and alongside the research undertaken on modern Punjabi language and literature, to account for the historical formations of Punjabi and its manifestation in Sufi and Sikh contexts. As a visiting Fellow at Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt, Germany from May-July 2017 Dr. Murphy will explore early Punjabi’s religious valences in relation to broader theories of vernacularization and religious individualization (the ongoing project at Max-Weber-Kolleg).

Project team member on grant held by Churnjeet Mahn (University of Strathclyde, UK) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), 2016-20, entitled “Punjab Creative Interruptions.” The project explores how marginalized communities have used the arts, media and creativity to challenge exclusion. A particular interest of the project is in remembering a shared religious past within the Punjabi landscape.

Luna’s Voice: Performing gender, caste, and religion is a multi-faceted exploration of Punjabi and English language texts and performances related to the Punjabi qissa or narrative tradition of Puran Bhagat, which tells the tell of a young woman forced to be the second wife of a much older man and the conflicts that emerge as a result. UBC will host an exploratory workshop on ways of dramatizing the narrative in early May 2017, with the goal of developing a full-length theatrical piece drawing on existing and new interpretations of the narrative, exploring caste, gender, and religious identity in the tale in multiple early modern and modern versions.

Contributor and Lead for Punjabi literature for DELI, the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Indian Literatures, a project emerging out of four French institutional partners: the academic research teams THALIM (Theory and History of Arts of Literatures in Modernity), MII (Iranian and Indian Worlds) and CERC (Centre for Comparatist Research and Studies), and the laboratory Résurgences. The project is based in Paris and is lead by Anne Castaing from CNERS/THALIM and Nicolas Dejenne and Claudine Le Blanc from Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle.

 Seva and the expression of the Ethical in Sikh traditions: Dr. Murphy also continues an ongoing project on the present and historical formations of social service or “seva” as an expression of ethical life within Sikh tradition. She conducted research on the topic as a Senior Fellow with the American Institute of Indian Studies in 2009-2010 (the results of which are partially reflected in The Materiality of the Past 2012 and are the subject of a forthcoming essay in a volume edited by Martin Fuchs and Vasudha Dalmia), and received a grant for the project from SSHRC in 2010. She is working on an ethnographic exploration of related themes in 2015-7, as a part of Professor Edward Slingerland’s SSHRC Partnership project on the Evolution of Religion and Morality.

Dr. Murphy has initiated an oral history program in the UBC Punjabi program, in partnership with her colleague Sukhwant Hundal (see, and teaches classes on the vernacular literary and religious traditions of South Asia, South Asian cultural history, and the Punjabi Diaspora. She serves as Chair for the “Religion, Literature and the Arts” Interdisciplinary Program and Faculty Advisor to the “Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies” program.

Professor Murphy received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and her Master’s degree from the University of Washington. She previously taught in the Religious Studies and Historical Studies Concentrations at The New School in New York City, and has a professional background in pre-collegiate education and museums. She is from New York City.

Selected publications:

“Bajwa has nothing more to say” by Zubair Ahmed, translated by Anne Murphy with Zubair Ahmed. In Pakistani Literature (Journal of the Pakistan Academy of Letters). 18, 1 (2015): 86-93.

“A Millennial Sovereignty? Recent Works on Sikh Martial and Political Cultures in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” A review article of When Sparrows Became Hawks: The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition, 1699–1799 by Purnima Dhavan; The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire by Louis Fenech; Debating the Dasam Granth by Robin Rinehart; Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century: Religious Violence in Mughal and Early Modern India by Hardip Singh Syan. In History of Religions, 55, 1 (August 2015): 89-104.

“Performing the Komagata Maru: Theatre and the Work of Memory.” In Studies in Canadian Literature 40, 1 (2015): 45-73.

“Dead Man’s Float,” Translation of a short story by Lahore-based Punjabi writer Zubair Ahmed, completed in collaboration with Mr. Ahmed. Published in: South Asian Ensemble: A Canadian Quarterly of Literature, Arts & Culture 7, 1 & 2 (Winter and Spring 2015): 158-165.

“The formation of the ethical Sikh subject in the era of British colonial reform,” revised and expanded version of essay published in 2013 conference proceedings (below). In Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory 11, 1 (2015): 149-159.

“Sikh Museuming,” in Sacred Objects in Secular Spaces: Exhibiting Asian Religions in Museums, edited by Bruce Sullivan (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 49-64, 157.

“The uses of the ‘folk’: Cultural Historical Practice and the Modernity of the Guga Tradition” in South Asian History and Culture (July 2015): 1-21. Reprinted as “Uses of the Folk: cultural historical practice and the Guga tradition” in Cultural Studies in India edited by Rana Nayar, Pushpinder Syal and Akhsaya Kumar (New York: Routledge, 2016), 117-138.

“A Diasporic Temporality: New narrative writing from Punjabi-Canada” in Towards a Diasporic Imagination of the Present: An eternal sense of homelessness, edited by Tapati Bharadwaja (Bangalore: Lies and Big Feet Press, 2015), 9-30.

“Dissent and Diversity in South Asia Religions,” in The Management of Intramural Dissent on Core Beliefs(Cambridge Univ. Press), 158-185, edited by Simone Chambers & Peter Nosco (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Chapters on “Sikh Material Culture” and “Representations of Sikh History” for The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, edited by Pashaura Singh and Louis Fenech (Oxford University Press, 2014), 94-106 and 449-458.

“The formation of the ethical Sikh subject in the era of British colonial reform,” in Conference Proceedings for `The Making of Modern Punjab: Education, Science and Social Change in Punjab c. 1850-c. 2000’, Panjab University (Chandigarh), October 24-26, 2013, pgs. 69-81.

“Defining the Religious and the Political: The Administration of Sikh Religious Sites in Colonial India and the Making of a Public Sphere” for special edition (edited by Arvind-pal Singh Mandair) on “Sikhs in Public Space” inSikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory. 9, 1 (2013): 51-62.

The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in Sikh Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

“The gurbilas literature and the idea of ‘religion’” in The Punjab Reader, edited by Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir (New York and New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012), 93-115.

“The Specter of Violence in Sikh Pasts,” in Teaching Religion and Violence, edited by Brian Pennington (New York: Oxford University Press and the AAR, 2012), 149-163.

Editor, Time, History, and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia (Routledge, 2011). Includes work by: Aparna Balachandran (Delhi University), Varuni Bhatia (Michigan), Nicolas Dejenne (Sorbonne), Purnima Dhavan (University of Washington), James Hare (Columbia University), James Hegarty (Cardiff), Rajeev Kinra (Northwestern), Arvind-pal Singh Mandair (Michigan), Rastin Mehri (SOAS), Christian Novetzke (University of Washington), and Teena Purohit (Boston University), as well as my introductory essay.

“Objects, ethics, and the gendering of Sikh memory” in Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 4 (2009): 161-168. Part of an interdisciplinary forum on “Early Modern Women and Material Culture.”

“The Guru’s Weapons,” in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (June 2009).

Guest editor for issue of Sikh Formations (December 2007); topic: “Time and history.” Contributors include: Purnima Dhavan (University of Washington), James Hare (Columbia University), Christian Novetzke (University of Washington), Teena Purohit (Columbia University), Rajeev Kinra (Northwestern).

“History in the Sikh Past,” in History and Theory (October 2007).

“Materializing Sikh Pasts,” in Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory (December 2005).

Translations of selected poems of the 15th century saint Ravidas, in Untouchable Saints: An Indian Phenomenon, edited by Eleanor Zelliot and Rohini Mokashi-Punekar (Delhi: Manohar, 2004).

“Mobilizing seva (Service): Modes of Sikh diasporic action,” in South Asians in the Diaspora: Histories and Religious Traditions, edited by Knut Axel Jacobsen and Pratap Kumar (Leiden: Brill, 2004).


ASIA 365 Punjabi Cinema

Punjabi culture, history, and social values through films. The class includes film viewings and seminar discussions. Films will be screened with English subtitles.

ASIA 498 Asia and the Museological Imagination

Museological representations of Asia and Asian forms of museological representation in colonial and post-colonial contexts.

ASIA 541A Research Methods and Source Materials in South Asian Studies – S ASIA ST RESRCH

PUNJ 401 Devotional Literature in Punjabi

Emphasis is on reading and written expression. Analytical writing in English and Punjabi required.

PUNJ 402 Medieval and Early Modern Punjabi Literature

Emphasis is on reading and written expression. Analytical writing in English and Punjabi required.