Anne Murphy is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia and, from 2017-2020, co-Director of the Centre for India and South Asia Research in the Institute of Asian Research. 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 more recently continued to pursue her interests in memory and representation in an edited volume she co-edited with Churnjeet Mahn (Strathclyde University, Scotland) entitled Partition and the Practice of Memory (2017). 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, 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 ongoing related projects). She received the Dean of Arts Research Award for W2017, which provides for a term free of teaching; she will therefore not be teaching in Term 2 of W2017. She 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.

Current Research Projects

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 2019. several stories have been published in literary journals (see “Publications”).

Punjabi in the (late) vernacular millennium: This project examines the historical emergence of the Punjabi language in north India in the early modern period. It emerges out of and alongside research on modern Punjabi language and literature, as listed below, to account for the historical formations of Punjabi and its relationship to other emergent vernacular languages in north India. As a Visiting Fellow at Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt, Germany in May-July 2017 I explored early Punjabi’s religious valences in relation to broader theories of vernacularization and religious individualization (the ongoing research theme at Max-Weber-Kolleg). I received Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Research support for the project in 2016 to explore manuscript collections.

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 1930s, with a focus on its secular commitments and its relationship to religious mobilization in India, Pakistan, and the Punjabi Diaspora. I received Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development grant support for initial research on this project from 2013-5 (extended to 2016) and a major SSHRC Insight Grant in support of the project from 2017-2022. I pursued related research as a Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies at UBC in 2016-7.

Intersections with the Arts: Punjabi cultural production, the contemporary arts, and historical practice: I have 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. This developmental phase has included a number of different initiatives. The project draws on work completed for the commemoration of the Komagata Maru incident in 2014 and work completed in 2017 in association with my role in the South Asian Canadian Histories Association; both projects engaged the visual arts and performance in engagement with the past. (For information on the creative projects described in this paragraph, see below under (“Exhibitions/Performances/Creative Work”). I have continued to pursue interests in Punjabi theatrical work and cultural production with preliminary work towards a larger project entitled “Luna’s Voice: Performing gender, caste, and religion,” a multi-faceted exploration of Punjabi and English language texts related to the Punjabi qissaor narrative tradition of Puran Bhagat. I organized an exploratory workshop on ways of dramatizing the narrative in early May 2017. To enhance related work at UBC, in 2017-8 I have co-organized with Hallie Marshall (UBC Theatre and Film) a seminar series to promote collaboration across departments at UBC that is entitled “Enacting Culture/s: Theatre and Film Across Disciplines.” Currently, I am also a project team member on 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.

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 one-year grant for the project from SSHRC in 2010. She is completing an article on an ethnographic exploration of related themes in 2017, as a part of Professor Edward Slingerland’s SSHRC Partnership project on the Evolution of Religion and Morality; she is also conducting a related project on how Seva has been imagined in the compositions of the Sikh Gurus. A related essay is also forthcoming in a volume edited by István Keul (University of Bergen) and Srilata Raman (University of Toronto). She received a small Faculty of Arts Research grant in W2017 to support this project through a grant entitled “Digital humanities approaches to the study of Sikh tradition: Statistical and digital analytical support.


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:

Partition and the Practice of Memory. Edited with Churnjeet Mahn (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland). Palgrave UK, 2017.


(Co-author.) “A futurefrom 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 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).


Winter 2018

ASIA376 The Sikhs: Formations, Contexts, and Historical Development Sections

Introduction to the historical development of Sikh traditions in India and Diaspora, from the 15th century to the present, with attention to broader historical contexts.

Winter 2018

ASIA468 Approaches to the Study of Asian Religions Sections

The Western genealogy and problematics of religion, issues in its application to non-Western cultures and traditions, and the practical study of Asian religions, in Asia and its diasporas.

Winter 2018

ASIA576B Topics In Sikh and South Asian Studies - TPC SIKH&S ASIA Sections

Winter 2018

PUNJ403 Modern Punjabi Literature Sections

Popular and literary works in modern Punjabi, with a focus on short stories and poetry. Emphasis on reading, writing, and vocabulary development.

Winter 2018

SOAL440B Supervised Study in South Asian Languages - S ASIA LANGUAGES Sections