Public Religion, Private Politics: Displaying Sikhism in Diasporic Houses
(University of Trento)
Ester Gallo (University of Trento)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing from a comparative analysis of Sikhs in the UK and Italy, we analyze the ostensive ambivalence of domestic material culture in the Sikh diaspora. Which and how home items and decors may reflect different temporalities in Sikh political/religious history and present politics of identity?
Paper long abstract:
Religion is acknowledged as an important source of spiritual and mundane support in migration trajectories. Further, its public role in migrants' demands for recognition and integration in Europe has received growing attention in recent decades. While current debates focus on public domains of religious pluralism (temples, congregation centers, urban spaces or media), little attention is paid to understand how religion inform migrants' domesticity. Drawing from a comparative analysis of Sikhs in the UK and Italy, we analyze the ostensive ambivalence of domestic material culture in the Sikh diaspora. We consider whether home items and decors may reflect different temporalities in Sikh political/religious history and present politics of identity. The analysis traces how different family members - across gender and generational difference - conceive houses as spaces for (re)producing spiritual retrieval and/or for narrating ushered political experiences. We argue that, particularly in Italy, Sikh diasporic homes constitute an important context for the reconfiguration of the political role of migrant religion. While in public settings Sikhs tend to display de-politicized images of Sikhism in order to reassure local opinion and accommodate into the host society, 'private' homes more frequently address Sikh past upheavals and martyrdom. Houses emerge as important sources in the reconfiguration of diasporic identity. Their spatial organization and meanings are shaped by larger socio-economic and political contexts. In turn, the ways in which houses are inhabited voice the possibilities and limits of integration as well as alternative projects of family and collective existence.
Houses and domestic space in the diaspora: materiality, senses and temporalities in migrants' dwellings