Caste and its diasporic avatar: findings from fieldwork among Sikhs in the UK
building 380, room 380F
The study of caste in contemporary India and in the diaspora have largely remained insulated from one another. Based on fieldwork among Sikhs in the UK, this presentation will seek to expose how a view from the periphery can contribute to our current understanding of caste and of its transformative dimension.
I will first discuss some methodological aspects of the investigation of caste among the Sikhs, a community who defines itself as egalitarian and who discursively rejects caste as a marker of the “other”, i.e. the Hindus. I will then present some of the salient aspects of my research on caste among Sikhs in the UK, particularly the ways in which caste is been reproduced in the diaspora and how it has become, for high caste, as well as low caste Sikhs, a major source of new identity formations and of transnational mobilisation.
Finally, I will address the recent anti-caste mobilisation among British Panjabi Dalits that raises important questions for the contemporary understanding of caste, giving a particularly fresh insight into its intersection with class, ethnicity and citizenship.
Christine Moliner is a doctoral student in Social Anthroplogy at the Centre d'Etudes de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (EHESS, Paris). Her doctoral research is focused on Sikh diasporic identity formations in Europe, particularly with the negotiation of caste-based and sectarian affiliations with broader ethnic and religious categories and with Sikh constructions of the 'Other', specifically their representations of Muslims.
She is an editor of the online academic journal SAMAJ and has jointly edited a special issue on migration and constructions of the "other" among South Asian diasporas, http://samaj.revues.org/195