A faith for all? Boundaries of religion and ethnicity among Sikhs


The religious demographics of the United States are changing, shaped by immigration and conversion of Americans to non-Western religious traditions. Research on nonwhite immigrant religious traditions has not addressed how communities of white converts challenge the link between religion and ethnicity. I address this gap, drawing on participant observation and 31 in-depth interviews with both Indian Sikhs and members of Sikh Dharma, a predominantly white Sikh community. I find that although respondents in each community draw on the same elements to construct Sikh identity (symbols, values, and practices); they diverge in regards to the specific practices they emphasize. Members of Sikh Dharma redefine both Sikh practice and the boundaries around Sikhism, incorporating new practices and beliefs while also critiquing the interconnection of Punjabi culture with Sikhism. Indian Sikhs express concern about the presentation of these new practices as Sikh practices. Results have implications for the ever-changing relationship of religion and ethnicity.

Publication Title

Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review