Anne Murphy is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia and Director of the Centre for India and South Asia Research in the Institute of Asian Research until June 30, 2020. She is Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives in the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 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), and has pursued her continuing interests in commemoration and memorial practices in a volume entitled Partition and the Practice of Memory (Palgrave, 2018), co-edited with Churnjeet Mahn (Strathclyde University).  She has engaged in numerous Public Humanities and Arts projects over the last five years that have furthered these interests (see below under “Current Research Projects”). Dr. Murphy 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 Research 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, for which she has received major funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council from 2017-22. She also has established interests in Punjabi Canadian cultural production (see below for details on related projects) and was a cofounder of SACHA, the South Asian Canadian Histories Association ( She received the UBC Dean of Arts Research Award for W2017, was a Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC in 2016-7 and, from May to July 2017, was a Visiting Fellow at the Max-Weber-Kolleg Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the Universität Erfurt, Germany, and was Directeur d’Études Associé (Associate Director) of L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris in June 2019.

Current Research 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 major Insight Grant support to complete the research from 2017-22.

Punjabi in the (late) vernacular millenniumThe 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 explored early Punjabi’s religious valences in relation to broader theories of vernacularization and religious individualization (the then-ongoing project at Max-Weber-Kolleg); she will continue work along these lines with the Max Weber Kolleg in 2021-2 as a part of the Kolleg’s new project on religion and urbanity.

The Hīr-Rāṅjhā narrative: This new project has two parts: (1) a book-length translation of the mid-eighteenth century version of the Hīr-Rānjhā narrative by Sufi poet Wāris Shāh, and (2) a comparative study of Persian versions of the narrative from the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, in comparison with Wāris Shāh’s version and other Punjabi language texts. The latter is being conducted with Persian specialist and incoming SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at UBC, Dr. Pegah Shahbaz.

Intersections with the Arts: Punjabi cultural production, the contemporary arts, and historical practice: Dr. Murphy has begun to develop a large-scale partnership project that will draw together a range of cultural historical work and contemporary creative practice across institutions and individual artists and scholars in Canada, the UK, Europe, India and Pakistan. The developmental phase of this project has included a number of initiatives, such as a theatrical production in Punjabi and English completed for the commemoration of the Komagata Maru incident in 2014 (for details, see: and a major project entitled “Trauma, Memory and the Story of Canada” completed in 2017 in association with her role in the South Asian Canadian Histories Association (; both projects engaged the visual arts and performance in engagement with the past. Murphy organized an exploratory workshop, funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, in 2017 along such lines. To enhance related work at UBC and coordinate with pedagogical initiatives, in 2017-8 she co-organized with Professor Hallie Marshall (UBC Theatre and Film) a seminar series to promote collaboration across departments at UBC entitled “Enacting Culture/s: Theatre and Film Across Disciplines.” She is now wrapping up her involvement in a project called “Creative Interruptions,” as a project team member, funded by a grant held by Churnjeet Mahn (University of Strathclyde, UK) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), 2016-19 that, in its Punjabi component, explores the history and memorialization of a shared pre-Partition religious past today in the Indian Punjab through artists’ residencies in Fall 2018 and an exhibition in Amritsar and Preet Nagar, India, in February 2019, and in London in June 2019. That project will be extended in 2019-20 with a set of artist residencies in Lahore, Pakistan, culminating in an exhibition at The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford BC in summer 2020 that will bring together the work created in India and Pakistan to consider the ways the once-shared past of the whole of Punjab can or might be remembered in the present through creative practice. The exhibition at The Reach will enhance public discourse on the Public Humanities and their role in guiding and shaping our exchange with the past with the support of a SSHRC Partnership Engage grant.

Contributor, Lead for Punjabi literature, and member of Advisory Board 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. Due to be published in 2020.

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 served until June 30, 2019 as Chair (2016-8) and then co-Chair of the “Religion, Literature and the Arts” Interdisciplinary Program, and continues as a Faculty Advisor to that program and also the “Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies” program. She serves on the UBC Senate, representing the Joint Faculties, from 2017-2020.

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.


Forthcoming in 2020, In Contract:

Windows and Streets of Lahore: The Stories of Punjabi-language author Zubair Ahmed. Book-length translation of the Punjabi language short stories of Lahore-based author Zubair Ahmed. Accepted for publication by Athabasca University Press (open access). Expected publication: February 2020.

Partition and the Practice of Memory. Edited with Churnjeet Mahn (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland). Palgrave UK, 2018.

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

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.


Journal Special Issues

Forthcoming, in production:

Co-editor of a special issue of Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory entitled Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957): Rethinking Literary Modernity in Colonial Punjab, with Anshu Malhotra (Delhi University), based on a workshop held at UBC in August 2017. Expected publication online in fall 2019; in print in 2020. Book-length edited volume will follow.

Co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 28, 3 (2018) with Heidi Pauwels (University of Washington) entitled “From Outside the Persianate Center: Vernacular Views on Ālamgīr.” Contributors: Emilia Bachrach (Oberlin College), Véronique Bouillier (EHESS, Paris), Allison Busch (Columbia), Monika Horstmann (Heidelberg), Samira Sheikh (Vanderbilt), Cynthia Talbot (UT Austin), and the editors.

Guest editor for issue of Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory 3, 2 (December 2007) 93-209 for issue, 93-109 for my introductory essay; topic: “Time and history in South Asian Pasts.” Contributors include: Purnima Dhavan (Washington), James Hare (Columbia University), Rajeev Kinra (Northwestern), Christian Novetzke (Washington), and Teena Purohit (Boston University). Essays from this issue were included, with the addition of others, in Time, History, and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia (see above).


Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

“Punjabi in the (late) Vernacular Millennium” in Early Modern India: literature and images, texts and languages, edited by Maya Burger & Nadia Cattoni, 305-328. Heidelberg, Berlin: CrossAsia-eBooks, 2019. (Open Access.)

“Configuring community in colonial and pre-colonial imaginaries: Insights from the Khalsa Darbar records,” in Religious Interactions in Modern India, edited by Martin Fuchs and Vasudha Dalmia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2019), 165-187.

“At a Sufi-Bhakti Crossroads: Gender and the politics of satire in early modern Punjabi Sufi literature,” for special issue on bhakti and literature in Archiv orientální (Journal of African and Asian Studies) 86 (2018): 243-268. (Open Access.)

“Thinking beyond Aurangzeb and the Mughal State in a late 18th century Punjabi Braj source.” In the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 28, 3 (2018): 537-554. (Part of special edited by myself and Heidi Pauwels.)

“From Outside the Persianate Centre: Vernacular Views on “Ālamgīr,” with Heidi Pauwels (University of Washington), introduction to special issue of the same title in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 28, 3 (2018): 409-414.

“Writing Punjabi Across Borders,” in South Asian History and Culture. 9, 1 (2018): 68-91. In special issue on “Script and Identity: The Politics of Writing Systems in South Asia,” guest edited by Pushkar Sohoni (University of Pennsylvania) and Carmen Brandt (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg).

(Co-author.) “A future from the past” by the South Asian Canadian Histories Association Founding Collective (Naveen Girn, Anne Murphy, Raghavendra Rao K.V., Milan Singh, Paneet Singh), in Reflections of Canada: Illuminating our Biggest Possibilities and Challenges at 150+ Years, edited by Phillip Tortell and Margot Young (Vancouver: Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, 2017), 151-160.

“Placing Max Arthur Macauliffe in context(s): Sikh historiographical traditions and colonial forms of knowledge,” for special issue of the Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions, 4 (2017), edited by Brian Bocking and Christopher Shackle, 58-73.

“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 Empireby 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 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.

“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).

Winter 2019

ASIA365 Punjabi Cinema Sections

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

Winter 2019

ASIA476Z Topics in South Asian Studies - TCS SOUTH ASIA Sections

Seminar class designed to explore current scholarly debates in South Asian and Sikh Studies. May be repeated for credit with permission of instructor. Credit will be granted for only one of ASIA 476 or ASIA 576.

Winter 2019

ASIA490D Asian Classics - Fourth Year Seminar - ASIA CLSSCS SEM Sections

Focus changes from year to year. Prerequisite: Permission of Instructor and fourth-year standing.

Winter 2019

ASIA490E Asian Classics - Fourth Year Seminar - ASIA CLSSCS SEM Sections

Focus changes from year to year. Prerequisite: Permission of Instructor and fourth-year standing.