The practice of the Peraktown Pindh in the community identity formation and belonging in a Malaysian Sikh diaspora
Kaur, Narveen (2015) The practice of the Peraktown Pindh in the community identity formation and belonging in a Malaysian Sikh diaspora. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
This research discusses the post-migration lived experience of the Peraktown Sikhs, a diaspora community of visible difference in the specific context of Malaysia. Using a qualitative case study methodology, I juxtaposed oral life history narratives and extensive interviews, memoirs and photographs, to study eighteen members of a total thirty-five Sikh families who lived in the multi-ethnic township I renamed Peraktown. Their narratives offer a loose historical chronology from the early 20th century to the 1970s of a diasporic group seeking to find home and a place to belong. Using a postcolonial lens, the research demonstrates the complex negotiation between inherited cultural traditions and the appropriation of colonial knowledge. It explores engagement and interaction with broader societal structures and dominant habitus within the rubric of identity construction, hybridity and the idea of home. My focus is the liminal generation, born prior to Indian and Malaysian independence, between 1915 and 1947. Framed in both the concept of diaspora as bounded space and the diaspora as a societal process, I co-opted a concept native to Sikhs, the Pindh, to understand and interrogate their unique understanding of identity, belonging and home. The Pindh or village incorporates relationships with the landscape and social structure in the construction of Sikh/Punjabi identification. In contrast to studies on Sikhs elsewhere, in Peraktown, the nostalgic attachment and identification with the physical spaces of their ancestral homeland and the meaning it imbued is accompanied by the appropriation of concepts and practices that sustain the idea of community belonging, bridging the divide of being at home both ‘here’ and ‘there’. This conceptual category is extended further, creating a Pindh of the mind, not bounded by geography or time. Their position offers this research a place in continued discussions of the complexity and fluidity of cultural identity and belonging and how this is constructed. Their lived experiences offer a map to the continued negotiations of diaspora identities in the newly forged linkages and relationships with land, a recreation of place and space in the course of settlement in the new host country.
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