This strand is focussed on using arts and humanities-led research to investigate and interrogate forms of cultural amnesia in a partitioned Punjab. The cultural amnesia relates to the deemphasis of history, memory, culture and material evidence of non-Sikh communities in East Punjab (this most clearly relates to Muslims who live or lived in East Punjab). The hypothesis of this research is that current creative and syncretic practices in daily life, worship and informal settings offer a powerful way of investigating how the material and cultural partitioning of cultures and regions operate.

The values of this research are based in working with a range of people with a direct investment in remembering, living in, or working on, ideas of ‘Punjab’. This ranges from small local organisations in Punjab interested in heritage to national-level bodies and international scholars.

As part of the basis of this work is historical, it relates to the contemporary moment by helping to unpick the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of certain cultural conditions in Punjab. For example, why is Mughal-era heritage relatively neglected? What are the barriers to better Sikh-Muslim relations in the region?

The impact of this strand will primarily be in:

  1. Using arts and humanities research to influence policy relating to heritage in Amritsar, a city close to the border with Pakistan which hosts the world’s first museum of partition (due to its own importance in hosting refugees as well as being evacuated of the majority of its Muslim residents), as well as being the spiritual centre of Sikhism. A major impact has already been achieved here as we were able to co-write part of an Amritsar Municipal tender document for development in the city to include a community arts and heritage component. This is connected to the Government of India HRIDAY City Scheme.
  2. Using arts and humanities research in conjunction with artisans, writers and musicians to explore how art in the region has historically embodied syncretic traditions. This knowledge and practice can be used to develop new forms of arts practice to reinvestigate and reimagine what it means to have access to multiple heritages in today’s Punjab.