Caste and Identity Processes among British Sikhs in the Midlands

Rusi Jaspal, Opinderjit Takhar

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This article examines the role of caste in the lives and identities of a small sample of young Sikhs in the English Midlands, using social psychological theory. In many academic writings, there is an implicit representation of caste as a negative aspect of South Asian culture and religion, and of caste identification as a means of oppressing vulnerable outgroups. Twenty-three young Sikhs were interviewed, and the qualitative data were analysed using Identity Process Theory. The following themes are discussed: (i) Caste as a Dormant Social Category, (ii) Anchoring the Caste Ingroup to Positive Social Representations, and (iii) Caste as an Inherent or Constructed Aspect of Identity? It is argued that neither caste nor caste-based prejudice appear to be prominent in the lives and identities of our interviewees but that, because caste is an important symbolic aspect of identity which can acquire salient in particular contexts, some Sikhs may wish to maintain this identity though endogamy. What is understood as caste-based prejudice can be better understood in terms of the downward comparison principle in social psychology. The implications for caste legislation are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-102
JournalSikh Formations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2016


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