Authority in the Virtual Sangat by Dr. Doris Jakobsh


Authority in the Virtual Sangat

Sikhism, Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century

by Dr. Doris Jakobsh

In her paper Authority in the Virtual Sangat. Sikhism, Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century, Doris Jakobsh analyses the change of authority based on her research on Sikhs on the Internet. She stresses the Web as a ‘third place’ of communication among the Sikhs as well as the phenomenon of new authorities online. However, this does not imply the replacement of the traditional seats of authority, the Akal Takht, SGPC, or gurdwara managements, but one can recognize a significant shift away from these traditional sites of authority toward the ‘new authorities’, the intermediaries of cyberspace. Her analysis shows that this aspect of the Sikh experience brings with it the most profound challenges and, most importantly, a need to bridge the post-modern individual, i.e. ‘Sikh tradition’ intertwined and legitimated by the metanarrative, and the proliferation of new authorities who have become intermediaries of Sikhism online by virtue of their expertise within the digital domain.




Filed under Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

9 responses to “Authority in the Virtual Sangat by Dr. Doris Jakobsh

  1. kamallarosekaur

    What I like so much about this article is that it tells me, straight up, what I wish someone would have told me a decade ago. It has taken me almost 10 years of studying Sikhs and Sikhi for me to understand the global Sikh authority issue.

    Obviously I think that the Guru Granth is all the leadership we could ever need – at the level we are surrendered – and that the secret of Sikhi is nondualistic awareness.

    But I don’t expect nonSikhs or most Sikhs to understand that. I don’t need everyone to be a Sikh. I am simply happy for the opportunity to share Guruji’s Way with the world, beaming cherdi kala. I sincerely wish she had written that paper years ago so I could have understood sooner the Khalsa hairball Sikhs are pulling at.

    Of course, the part about how we are all competing to define Sikhi to the world, broadcasting in English from countless internet sites and forums – I have always understood that part. Obviously the “Sikhs” with the best technology and biggest $$$$, like Sikhnet, have a tremendous advantage in their campaigning to define Sikhi to the global audience.

    Personally I am aligned with the side that has no money nor clout.This gives me faith! It is all the Divine play.

    • I fully agree to your conclusion that it is all divine play . We need not aim
      at disturbing the approach of those who have big $$$$$ & are also busy
      in their own style of spreading LOVE OF GURBANI . We can consider them as having authority to act as PRO & when it comes to realities of
      enjoying BLISS STATE , these learners will revert back to you . However
      we must also suggest to the needy to read the life stories of GREAT PHILOSPHERS who simplified further , by additional powers of LOVE
      OF GOD & made our task to enjoy a blissful life within our reach, while
      enjoying our married life . Suggested readings are A BOOK by Sant Pretaam Singh Ji , on the life journey & achievements of NAAM by
      His Holiness BABA Mahaharnaam Singh Ji . He enjoyed a blissful journey
      of life(over 140 long years) wef 1787 to 1927, from village BHUCHOON KALAN , District Bhatinda , Punjab, INDIA . Available from CJ Publishers , Amritsar , INDIA , costing only US$3 only.

  2. Deep Singh

    the trouble with pseudo- postmodernists is this that in the first place they dont understand what postmodernism is or rather they feel unable to react to the fact that postmodernism is not one . it is not a concrete dogma ready to be adopted lying out there. it is also not a method to be adopted and applied. this is the case with ms jacobsh. she is using postmodernism as weapon to devastate sikhism completely. instead of advancing diversity , she is killing it.
    postmodernism is an attitude. it tries to remain open toward the other. but this lady’s stance is not such, its modernist in denying sikhism its uniqueness and relegating it to metaphysical closure. she is practicing a hermeneutics of aversion in which the subject matter at hand is treated as a bloody damn thing from the very start. this shows her own mental state.
    On the contrary, a postmodernist will adopt a hermeneutics of generosity as suggested by Ricoeur, in which first the text is made to speak for itself then it is approached for a methodological study. if you shut up the text on the very start and begin to give a commentary then it is nothing more than a polemic.

    • Gurh(SHRI)GURUH Granth Sahib is the final Guruh of Sikhs; while SATGURUH IS THE
      IN SANGHA SADHANA :all representations
      of selfless service, i.e., GURUSEVA in modernity.
      Urban SIKHS MAY or may not don the 5 karas
      5 physical symbols of SIKHISM :which said
      emblems outward symbols indicate that one,
      as a disciple–learner–selflessSERVANT OF
      nothing NOTHING belongs to a sikh.Even a
      SIKH’S next breath is the grace and sweet nectar
      bestowed upon the discipleservant TO THE
      TO BESTOW!
      “WAHEGURUH SATNAM”!’WaheGuru !”SatNam”!
      “SatNam!”‘Waheguru SatNam!”

    • kamallarosekaur

      Blessings Deep Singh,

      Stay tuned. I plan to post my academic response to Dr. Jakobsh in a day or three.

      Reading academic papers allows us to listen in on the conversations of those studying us. Jakobsh speaks about this, so called, Post-modern era in the exact way that Western academics currently speak. She is not a Sikh and will never be a Sikh and it is a free universe and anyone has the right to study Sikhs or any other topic and speak freely about what they find. Her training is in history.

      What interests Western readers is how Western academics studying Sikhi receive lots of threats and hate mail from Sikhs. Sikh Studies is stuck.

      Yet Dr. Doris keeps on reporting what she experiences and keeps trying to encourage her Sikh students to go into Sikh Studies and encourage other nonSikhs interested in studying Sikhs to be brave, even in the face of violent backlash, worse than Christian or fanatic Muslim response to academic study. Sikh Studies is considered a dangerous field; a viper pit.

      So before we criticize Jakobsh some more for the gall of studying Sikhs and Sikhi while not being a Sikh… can we talk about hate campaigns against Sikh Studies scholars and what we can do to help those interested in Sikhs and Sikhi present Sikhi via Western curriculums, as a world religion?

  3. “WeheGuruh, SATNAM!”

    “WeheGuruh, SATNAM!”


    “WeheGuruh, SATNAM!”


  4. kamallarosekaur

    It embarrasses me how Sikhs desire Sikhi to be taught as a world religion in Western schools K- graduate school, yet Sikhs do not go into Religious Studies, Anthropology or History professionally Rather educated Sikhs go for the higher caste Western professions, doctors, lawyers, MBAs. Then Sikhs howl and complain when non-Sikh academics study us. Sikhs devolve quickly into sounding just like Fundamentalists – Chritstians and Muslims particularly – or maybe simply uneducated.

    Again, Dr. Jakobsh is completely accepted by the Western academy. She represents Harvard and Oxford Press. Accusing her of stupidity or ignorance is rude and makes Sikhs look stupid to Western readers. Please ask reasonable questions and maybe we can demonstrate how Sikhs can be kind and wise – intead of a bunch of raving idiots.

    • akhar parr parr bhuleeai bhaekhee bahuth abhimaan ||
      Reading their books over and over again, people continue making mistakes; they are so proud of their religious robes.

      parr parr gaddee ladheeahi parr parr bhareeahi saathh ||
      You may read and read loads of books; you may read and study vast multitudes of books.

      parr parr baerree paaeeai parr parr gaddeeahi khaath ||
      You may read and read boat-loads of books; you may read and read and fill pits with them.

      parr pusathak sa(n)dhhiaa baadha(n) ||
      You read your books and say your prayers, and then engage in debate;

      Just a bit of the msg of Guru Granth Sahib which comes to mind. Religious studies are something in Sikhi which ultimately are meant to be personal so that a profound worship experience occurs as a result of learning. Other than that we only need to educate each other on how to read so that we are able to conduct our own studies. The relation ship with the divine cannot be told. However we may take the guidance our Guru has imparted to obtain that relationship for ourselves.

      Reading Doris Jacobson dissertation on Sikhi is like reading someone who is describing the outercrust of a geode without ever having had seen it’s jewel encrusted interior and proclaiming themself knowledgeable.
      She adequately describes problems but seems to have no experience at all with worship, which is something which has to be experienced first hand to understand. She can observe til she know longer takes breath but with out indulging herself in the act of worship is like describing cake with out ever having tasted of it.
      I don’t find her intersting in the least as I’d rather be eating cake than hear her tell of it secondhand.

  5. kamallarosekaur

    Blessing Sukhmander Kaur,

    Not sure how your enjoying being a Sikh applies to the subject at hand? Of course Sikhs love being Sikhs.

    And please read whatever you want, of course.

    Beyond that, are you saying that you do not wish Sikhi to be considered a world religion and taught as such in Western schools and universities?

    Do you think nonSikhs have the right to study Sikhi free from reprisals and hate campaigns?

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