School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Image of Narveen Kaur

Narveen Kaur

University Teacher in Communications (Part-time), Faculty of Arts



Currently, Narveen is working on a post-doc at the Centre for Hidden Histories at the University of Nottingham and is a recepient of the Centre for Advanced Studies WW1 post-doctoral bursary award 2014/15. Following on from her doctoral research, Narveen is working on the private memorialisation of Malaysian Sikh soldier participation in World War I, with the primary aim of constructing a digital archive of personal artefacts and their associated histories.

In addition, she is working on the foundational research for a post-doctoral project comparing and contrasting the university of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and the University of Luxembourg on the internationalization of university campuses and the experience of first-generation tertiary students examining the intersections of identity, community, home and belonging within the East/West dialectic.

Her doctoral research studied a Sikh Diaspora community in Malaysia, focused on the continued negotiation of forms of belonging, the continuity of cultural identity and the transformation to meanings of 'home.' Her theoretical construct of the Pindh as a new lens to view a Sikh diaspora experience represents an effort to push back against postcolonial and Western-centric diaspora discourse and potentially offer an enabling concept for different diaspora groups.

Teaching Summary

Currently I teach undergraduate modules in Cultural Studies and Research Methods. My teaching interests include the theoretical foundations of Cultural studies, the works of Raymond Williams, Stuart… read more

Research Summary

Mapping the border crossing experiences of belonging/non-belonging in first-generation tertiary students of migrant or international student origins in an East/West dialectic

This research aims to compare and contrast the lived experience of students at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia and the University of Luxembourg from working-class or lower middle class backgrounds with some degree of difference to the dominant culture as practiced in an international and multi-cultural university, for example from migrant origins or different nationalities. The research will explore and understand the strategies these non-traditional students employ to navigate the new socio-cultural environment of an international university and their ways of acquiring needed local knowledge in managing their changing contextual space. The University of Luxembourg possesses a high percentage of migrant-origin students from diverse backgrounds and provides a Western-centric perspective. In contrast, the student population at the University of Nottingham Malaysia consists predominantly of students of Asian origins. This research will draw on the theoretical foundations of Raymond Williams and Michel de Certeau, elements of diaspora and postcolonial theory aiming to uncover the 'structures of feeling' that influence the lived experience and practice of place-making behaviours in the subject groups studied. The research study will juxtapose ethnographic observation, unstructured interviews and engagement with fiction and non-fiction experiences of leaving family and community for the unknown spaces of an international university, where culture and/or appearance of the research subjects mark them distinct. I anticipate finding a sense of border crossings, an internal sense of 'exile' and disconnectedness from the rhythms of life of home, parents and old friends. I propose that first-generation tertiary students from different socio-cultural backgrounds need to develop a new form of belonging, as their existing identifications become mutable the further they travel away from worlds they understand while continuing to carry the weight of family and community aspirations and the inheritance of their memories and constructed identities. In contrasting and comparing the Western case with the Asian subject group, I hope to provide new knowledge on the varied formations of identity within this dialectic of belonging and positionality to East or West and to assess the impact of different cultures of learning.

Currently I teach undergraduate modules in Cultural Studies and Research Methods. My teaching interests include the theoretical foundations of Cultural studies, the works of Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall and Pierre Bourdieu, postcolonial theory, research methods and ethnography.

Past Research

The practice of the Peraktown Pindh in community identity formation and belongingin a Malaysian Sikh diaspora.

My research discusses the post-migration lived experience of the Peraktown Sikhs, a diaspora community of visible difference in the specific context of the Malaysian case. Using a qualitative case study methodology, I juxtaposed oral life history narratives and extensive interviews, memoirs and photographs, to study eighteen members of a total thirty-five Sikh families who lived in the multi-ethnic township I renamed Peraktown. Using a postcolonial lens, the research demonstrates the complex negotiation between inherited cultural traditions and the appropriation of colonial knowledge, engagement and interaction with broader societal structures and dominant habitus within the rubric of identity construction, hybridity and the idea of home. My focus is the liminal generation, born before Indian and Malaysian independence. They lacked significant relationships with Punjab as their place of origin and disconnected from the locality, as a minority group very much embedded in the British colonial administration. Framed in both the concept of diaspora as bounded space and the diaspora as a societal process, I co-opted a concept native to Sikhs, the Pindh, that incorporates relationships with the landscape and social structure in the construction of Sikh/Punjabi identification. My transposition of a distinctively Sikh concept to become the theoretical category of meaning, the Pindh, developed as the data resonated strongly with the construction of community identity and their own comprehension and constitution of home and belonging. Co- opting this term and extending its original meaning to encompass all these ideas and structures of feeling allowed the opportunity to extend the discourse of diaspora, in this particular community, beyond the postcolonial and Western modes of thought surrounding the meaning of being 'other' yet simultaneously belong both 'here,' 'back there' and to many potential futures places of home. Their lived experiences offer a map to the continued negotiations of diaspora identities in the newly forged linkages and relationships with land, a re-creation of place and space in the course of settlement in the new host country. Their position offers this research a place in continued discussions of the complexity and fluidity of cultural identity and belonging and how this is constructed.

Future Research

Crossing waters, shedding blood: The First World War and Malaysian Sikh memories

My research focuses on the collection of narratives of family memories and cultural artefacts relating to the Malaysian Sikh experience during the First World War, to investigate further this continued affiliation of martial prowess and to the colonial administration in this community. The aim of the project is to construct and organise the ongoing maintenance of a digital archive to ensure access to these memories and material for Sikh and First World War historians and the general public. The Federated and Unfederated Malay States along with the Straits Settlement remained outside the theatre of war during this period and official memories are limited largely to the names of the fallen, inscribed on the marble walls of the National Monument. In addition, the community selected, the Malaysian Sikhs, remain largely subsumed within the category of Indian, generally associated with the lived experience of indentured labour, ignoring the varied narrative threads of Sikh migration to this region.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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