Religious conversion and Dalit assertion amongst a Punjabi Dalit diaspora

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Drawing upon original ethnographic research amongst Punjabi Dalit communities within the UK and India, this paper examines post-transnational migration religious conversion from Sikhism to neo-Buddhism and Christianity, assessing the extent to which this process is simultaneously one of Dalit assertion and resistance to caste-based oppression, thereby facilitating social change within the contemporary Punjabi transnational community. While it is generally accepted that, despite the Ambedkar movement, the volume of Dalit religious conversion away from Sikhism within Punjab has been very low, there is very little analysis of the meanings and implications of religious conversion from Sikhism amongst communities of UK Punjabi Dalits. I specifically evaluate whether such religious conversion is part of a transnational ‘autonomous anti-caste tradition’ (Hardtmann 2009). It is argued that the Punjabi Dalit transnational community studied are simultaneously involved in both caste reform, a continued engagement with the caste order in order to assert an enhanced status within it, and anti-caste practices. Ultimately, Punjabi post-transnational migration religious conversion, as a mechanism for Punjabi Dalit empowerment and social mobility, is ineffective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-246
JournalSociological Bulletin
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2014


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