Accepted paper:

Stereotyped Sikh Images in Diaspora: Public Portrayals and Citizenry Identity Politics


Gurbachan Jandu

Paper short abstract:

Sikhs have since the early 19th century attracted photographers whose work has suggested a simplified Sikh identity-a turbaned, hirsute male. In the internet age this image has become the Sikh diaspora's own political vehicle that for less-informed parties may lead to fatal mistaken identities

Paper long abstract:

In August 2012 the fatal shootings of the faithful at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, USA created a moment to reflect on the perception of Sikhs outside of India. An anthropological examination of public media photography amongst the commentariat during that time and in longer-term literature found that Sikhs are portrayed using very specific images that are not entirely representative of the community's "super-diversity". In locating this typesetting, it was found that colonial Orientalism may have lent historical origins to this image through a Victorian public attracted to the exotic in empire. As misleading and polemic as this representation may be, it has now been adopted by those on the other side of the camera i.e. parts of the Sikh community itself. Mass print-publishing and the internet has now become a proxy global platform for vying interests within the community seeking authority through this self-reflective image alignment. Literature linking publicly circulated images to identity in non-dominant groups suggests that this may have the dynamic of determining the actions of less informed or extreme groups such as white supremacists or newer members of the community such as Sikh youth. This in-situ researcher also considers whether this 'self-profiling' erroneously narrows the perception of the Sikh community by other, thereby affecting the equal appreciation of Sikhs as citizenry in diaspora.

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Appropriating Photography: Global Technologies and Local Politics of Self-Representation