NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Diasporic identity and religion

Laura Schwöbel, University of Jyväskylä

In my presentation, I will examine how members of the Sikh community in Helsinki, Finland, fashion their diasporic identity. In particular, I am interested in examining what role religion plays in shaping and preserving diasporic identities.

Recent theorizing on diasporic identities has claimed that religion functions as a significant tool in providing immigrant communities the important feeling of an inclusive collectivity. At the same time, religion is argued to serves as a strong device distinguishing the immigrant community from its host society. However, religion often also supports and strengthens the ties between a diaspora community and its home country, by referring to something they have in common.

In this context, it will be important to scrutinize the meaning of the only Finnish gurdwara (Sikh temple), located in Helsinki. Especially interested I will be in investigating the gurdwara’s symbolic meaning that it has for the Sikh community in Finland. Further, I will focus on examining the temple as a concrete physical locality, in order to understand its significance for creating Sikh diasporic identity.

The data material for this presentation will be collected in spring 2008 in Helsinki, Finland by applying the method of ethnographic fieldwork, which will include participant observation, a fieldwork journal as well as 5 tape-recorded semi-structured interviews.