, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 115-142

First online:

Subject to Interpretation: Philosophical Messengers and Poetic Reticence in Sikh Textuality

  • Balbinder Singh BhogalAffiliated withS.K.K. Bindra Chair of Sikh Studies, Hofstra University Email author 

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The translation of the Guru Granth Sahib (GGS), or Sikh ‘scripture’, within the discourse of (European) colonial/modernity was enacted by the use of hermeneutics—which oversaw the shift from the openness of praxis to the closure of representation and knowledge. Such a shift demoted certain indigenous interpretive frames, wherein the GGS is assumed to enunciate an excess that far transcends the foreign demand to fix the text’s ‘call’ into singular meanings (beyond time), but rather transforms the hermeneutic desire into a process of learning (Sikhi) through multiple meanings (in time). Thus the GGS is not translated according to a particular life-world, but actively transforms the life-world of those that respond to its excessive call. How should hermeneutics be reformed in this case? If the GGS as text demands interpretation, then the text as Guru demands engagement, and together they would necessarily call forth a radicalization of hermeneutics via a certain poetic reticence to all philosophical messengers.


Methodological/existential hermeneutics Theoria/praixs Philosophy/poetry Allegory/satire