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'Home' in Sikh polity: understandings of mīrī pīrī in contemporary Britain

Bhogal, Jaskiran Kaur (2022) 'Home' in Sikh polity: understandings of mīrī pīrī in contemporary Britain. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004420


Although past anthropological research on Britain’s religious minority communities, such as Sikhs – and also Sikh Studies research – has principally focused on exploring issues of ‘identity’ and ‘assimilation’ within (public) religious practice, since 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings, practising Sikhī (the vernacular for the Sikh faith) in public has become increasingly problematic, not just for Sikhs, but also for Britain’s wider society. Indeed, these increasingly problematic public practises of Sikhī compound problems with past research’s focus on Sikhs’ public identity and assimilation. To provide a richer, more nuanced understanding of this increasingly problematic practice, my research takes an ‘anthropology at home’ approach – and focusses on both public and private forms of Sikh expression deployed in contemporary Britain. From this dual focus of working from the inside outwards – as well as taking seriously a longer history of the making of the complex relationship between Sikhs and Britain – I argue that because the British public sphere has a religious and racialised hierarchy, public expressions of minority religions, such as Sikhī, are frequently problematic for those who practise it. Sikh ideas of ‘home’ are multi layered and for my interlocutors, Sikhī is the thread that runs through each of these layers of what home means. My thesis explores how one ‘becomes’ a Sikh and the different ways of becoming a Sikh in various sites from the most private setting of the home to the most public arena in the form of sevā (selfless service). Importantly, as a result of the development of Sikh history a ‘multiplicity of identities’ (Werbner, 2013) has developed leading to a ‘spectrum of Sikhs’ that still maintain a significant link to Sikhī through the practice of the interrelation of kinship and religion (Cannell, 2013; Cannell, 2015; Cannell, 2019; McKinnon et al., 2013; Orsi, 2010). Christian and post-Christian legacies in anthropology create default categories such as spirituality, politics, and religion. The perceived tension of religion and politics frames our 4 understandings of those that we study and impacts our interpretation of their beliefs and praxis. My thesis is primarily about understanding how Sikhs in Britain comprehend the relationship between the religious and political through the lens of mīrī pīrī (the vernacular understanding of the relationship between spirituality and politics). Ultimately, my thesis argues that whilst Sikhī was a faith that emerged as one to “dismantle structures of oppression and hierarchy” (Kaur, 2020, p. 8) it has been appropriated in the British context to allow for acceptance into a non-compatible nation and is not without compromise and sacrifice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Jaskiran Kaur Bhogal
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Bear, Laura and Cannell, Fenella

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