Kiran Sunar is a Liu Scholar, a guest doctoral fellow at the Max Weber Kolleg for Advanced Social and Cultural Studies, and a PhD student in the Department of Asian Studies working under the supervision of Dr. Anne Murphy. Kiran received her BA (Jt. Hons) from McGill University in Religious Studies and Gender Studies, and an MA from UBC in English Literature focusing on literary representations of diasporic Sikh masculinity in Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani and Ranj Dhaliwal’s Daaku. Her PhD project attends to questions of gender, sexuality, and the fantastical in South Asian literatures with a focus on Punjabi literature in the early modern period (16th to 18th century). Kiran also holds an interest in cinema studies and in questions of identity including the intersections of race, class, sexuality, religion, and gender.
Her interdisciplinary PhD project, entitled “Gender, Sexuality, and the Fantastical in Punjabi Narrative Traditions (the Qissā),” aims to directly challenge the marginalization of Sikh and Muslim lives by re-centering Punjabi regional texts, oral traditions, and performance as literature with significant value for Canadian and global culture and policy. She unearths the rich narrative universe of Punjabi gender and sexuality through an analysis of the Punjabi qissā – a set of influential texts that depict complex religious and cultural continuities, and ones that work as alternate sources to British colonial misrepresentations of religious identity. In so doing, her project challenges the homogenization and misrepresentation of Sikh, Muslim, and other “othered” cultures as one-dimensional and regressive, offering insights which can enrich and inform Canadian and global policy pertaining to queer and women’s rights. With Punjabi as the fifth most-spoken language in Canada, it is a loss to Canadian culture that this vital and relevant history, especially with regard to its textured approach to the lives of South Asians, is underrepresented and forgotten. Kiran’s project operates as a site of local and global continuities, seeking to reconstitute a past across borders, and recuperate and value a language across its multiple scripts.
As an interdisciplinary scholar who is also involved in creative work on the complexity of Punjabi identity in Canada, Kiran is working on a novel entitled Nerve and is also involved, from time to time, in performance work. In relationship with her academic work, Nerve engages alternate readings of Punjabi sexualities, as well as questions of migration, trauma, and agriculture.