(S)pacing Female Education in the Punjabi Sikh Diaspora: Negotiating Gender and Female Sexuality in Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Novels

Angelia Poon


In this article, I examine the work of Balli Kaur Jaswal, a Singapore-based novelist, who has written four novels about the Punjabi Sikh diaspora. I begin by establishing some of the tensions faced by a diasporic Anglophone writer today within the unequal circuits of global publishing before turning to Jaswal’s Sugarbread (2016) and Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (2017). Here, I examine the education and socialization of both female protagonists as they face disciplining constraints from familial ties, their patriarchal ethnic community and religious orthodoxy in the specific socio-historical national and regional spaces they inhabit. Enforced in spatial ways, these constraints operate with the threat and shame of female sexual transgression serving as their collective ideological center. At the same time, I also discuss how Jaswal appropriates the fluidity of national and diasporic spaces to explore possibilities for Sikh women’s self-assertion and independence.


Balli Kaur Jaswal; Singapore literature; Punjabi Sikh diaspora; space and gender politics

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